View Full Version : Hints of 'time before Big Bang'


Knight-Dragon
Jun 08, 2008, 11:44 PM
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7440217.stm

A team of physicists has claimed that our view of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the Big Bang.

The discovery comes from studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB), light emitted when the Universe was just 400,000 years old.

Their model may help explain why we experience time moving in a straight line from yesterday into tomorrow.

Details of the work have been submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters.

The CMB is relic radiation that fills the entire Universe and is regarded as the most conclusive evidence for the Big Bang.

Although this microwave background is mostly smooth, the Cobe satellite in 1992 discovered small fluctuations that were believed to be the seeds from which the galaxy clusters we see in today's Universe grew.

Dr Adrienne Erickcek, and colleagues from the California Institute for Technology (Caltech), now believes these fluctuations contain hints that our Universe "bubbled off" from a previous one.

Their data comes from Nasa's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which has been studying the CMB since its launch in 2001.

Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular.

Arrow of time

Describing the team's work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in St Louis, Missouri, co-author Professor Sean Carroll explained that "a universe could form inside this room and wed never know".

The inspiration for their theory isn't just an explanation for the Big Bang our Universe experienced 13.7 billion years ago, but lies in an attempt to explain one of the largest mysteries in physics - why time seems to move in one direction.

The laws that govern physics on a microscopic scale are completely reversible, and yet, as Professor Carroll commented, "no one gets confused about which is yesterday and which is tomorrow".

Physicists have long blamed this one-way movement, known as the "arrow of time" on a physical rule known as the second law of thermodynamics, which insists that systems move over time from order to disorder.

This rule is so fundamental to physics that pioneering astronomer Arthur Eddington insisted that "if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation".

The second law cannot be escaped, but Professor Carroll pointed out that it depends on a major assumption - that the Universe began its life in an ordered state.

This makes understanding the roots of this most fundamental of laws a job for cosmologists.

"Every time you break an egg or spill a glass of water you're learning about the Big Bang," Professor Carroll explained.

Before the bang

In his presentation, the Caltech astronomer explained that by creating a Big Bang from the cold space of a previous universe, the new universe begins its life in just such an ordered state.

The apparent direction of time - and the fact that it's hard to put a broken egg back together - is the consequence.

Much work remains to be done on the theory: the researchers' first priority will be to calculate the odds of a new universe appearing from a previous one.

In the meantime, the team have turned to the results from WMAP.

Detailed measurements made by the satellite have shown that the fluctuations in the microwave background are about 10% stronger on one side of the sky than those on the other.

Sean Carroll conceded that this might just be a coincidence, but pointed out that a natural explanation for this discrepancy would be if it represented a structure inherited from our universe's parent.

Meanwhile, Professor Carroll urged cosmologists to broaden their horizons: "We're trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don't know whether there was anything - or if there was, what it was."

If the Caltech team's work is correct, we may already have the first information about what came before our own Universe.

Mise
Jun 09, 2008, 06:50 AM
Wow, that's quite incredible.

Perfection
Jun 09, 2008, 09:45 AM
Ugh, I hate BBC science articles, it says there are hints in CMBR flucuations, but doesn't say what those hints are. It's all results with almost no explination how they arrived to them.

warpus
Jun 10, 2008, 12:59 PM
So if this true, this means that our Universe was born inside of another Universe.. and that one was likely to have been born in yet another Universe.

Does this repeat infinitely, or was there an unmoved mover? ;)

Luckymoose
Jun 10, 2008, 08:49 PM
So there is a possibility of life from before our universe, moving from the old to the new. This could be awesome if those pesky aliens would show up.

Veritass
Jun 11, 2008, 11:38 AM
Much work remains to be done on the theory: the researchers' first priority will be to calculate the odds of a new universe appearing from a previous one.

That will be some interesting math.
How do you check your figures on that one?

Lord Olleus
Jun 11, 2008, 03:17 PM
I'm confused about "time before the big bang". Wasn't the big bang the start of the three spacial dimensions and the time dimension? If so then time before that makes on sence. Its like saying whats -1m away from a point (without specifying a direction).

And yes Perfection, I agree that the BBC science articles are of quite a low standard. I find that The Economist write the best ones.

warpus
Jun 12, 2008, 12:53 PM
I'm confused about "time before the big bang". Wasn't the big bang the start of the three spacial dimensions and the time dimension? If so then time before that makes on sence. Its like saying whats -1m away from a point (without specifying a direction).

And yes Perfection, I agree that the BBC science articles are of quite a low standard. I find that The Economist write the best ones.

There could be other dimensions of time, outside of the one that was created during the big bang. (if it was indeed created then)

Lord Olleus
Jun 12, 2008, 01:48 PM
But then it doesn't make sence to say that it is "before" as when we talk about time we always refer to our dimension of time, as its the only we that we experience. It makes no more sence than to say that an object which is to the left of another is behind or infront of it - it isn't - its next to it.

Mise
Jun 12, 2008, 04:54 PM
I think they mean "before" in the causal sense; causes always precede effects, so whatever caused the big bang must have come "before" the big bang. We can think of it as defining (ordinal) time in terms of cause and effect. In this way, we don't need to refer to any specific notion of time at all.

TheBladeRoden
Jun 12, 2008, 05:01 PM
But then it doesn't make sence to say that it is "before" as when we talk about time we always refer to our dimension of time, as its the only we that we experience. It makes no more sence than to say that an object which is to the left of another is behind or infront of it - it isn't - its next to it.

If you have enough perspectives, an object can be both next to, in front of, and behind another object simultaneously.

Mise
Jun 12, 2008, 05:06 PM
If you have enough perspectives, an object can be both next to, in front of, and behind another object simultaneously.
Yeah. I think a better analogy would be, if you had a small box inside a large box, would the small box be infront or behind the large box.

Perfection
Jun 13, 2008, 12:59 AM
So how would we determine which universe caused the existance of another?

In other words, what's causality without time (and entropy)?

Souron
Jun 14, 2008, 03:42 AM
So how would we determine which universe caused the existance of another?

In other words, what's causality without time (and entropy)?"a universe could form inside this room and we’d never know" suggests that all of a universe is confined to a finite region of space in it's parent universe. Thus the parent universe can be defined as the one containing the other.

Though the whole jargon of "multiple universes" seems self contradicting to me.

Truronian
Jun 14, 2008, 04:44 PM
I went to an informal lecture about a theory similar to this one last year, I remember the lecturer beleved that any a universe will spawn a new universe once t -> oo, and this new universe will have lower entropy than the last one. I also remember that it sounded like crock, but that might just be because he only had an hour and a half to present his theory.

Perfection
Jun 16, 2008, 11:04 PM
I wonder if any of this is testible stuff, or just that this guy figured out some math that would allow it.

TheDS
Oct 06, 2008, 11:09 AM
Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

warpus
Oct 06, 2008, 06:46 PM
I went to an informal lecture about a theory similar to this one last year, I remember the lecturer beleved that any a universe will spawn a new universe once t -> oo, and this new universe will have lower entropy than the last one. I also remember that it sounded like crock, but that might just be because he only had an hour and a half to present his theory.

And let me guess, all those universes are spawned within black holes, and universes with more stable black holes in them are selected for using a process similar to natural selection?

Yeah, I heard that on a street corner once.

Truronian
Oct 09, 2008, 03:52 AM
And let me guess, all those universes are spawned within black holes, and universes with more stable black holes in them are selected for using a process similar to natural selection?

Yeah, I heard that on a street corner once.

No, although I've heard stuff like that too. The guy that proposed this is pretty famous (Roger Penrose (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_penrose)), though I've heard nothing about it since. It was probably just wrong.

Valka D'Ur
Oct 09, 2008, 04:12 AM
"a universe could form inside this room and wed never know" suggests that all of a universe is confined to a finite region of space in it's parent universe. Thus the parent universe can be defined as the one containing the other.

Though the whole jargon of "multiple universes" seems self contradicting to me.
I read a science fiction story about some people who created a miniature invisible universe in their science lab. It came as a great shock to them to realize they themselves were probably an invisible universe in somebody else's lab.

I reject the notion that "it's elephants all the way down." Saying we came from another universe only brings the question of The Beginning to one more step -- where did this other universe come from?

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.
I have a button that says this, but it adds some material:

Time is nature's way of keeping
everything from happening at once.
It doesn't seem to be working lately.

El_Machinae
Oct 09, 2008, 08:26 AM
And let me guess, all those universes are spawned within black holes, and universes with more stable black holes in them are selected for using a process similar to natural selection?

Yeah, I heard that on a street corner once.

I'm under the impression that this is not a controversial theory. I mean, it's not proven yet, of course. But the mainstream cosmologists admit that the idea makes sense, even if it's not their favourite theory.

Souron
Oct 09, 2008, 11:01 PM
I'm under the impression that this is not a controversial theory. I mean, it's not proven yet, of course. But the mainstream cosmologists admit that the idea makes sense, even if it's not their favourite theory.
I was under the impression that Hawking, the person who originally suggested the idea has since rejected it. I remember reading it online, but unfortunately I did not save the link.

frekk
Nov 15, 2008, 12:36 AM
Ugh, I hate BBC science articles, it says there are hints in CMBR flucuations, but doesn't say what those hints are. It's all results with almost no explination how they arrived to them.

Journalists suck.

Here it is from the horses mouth:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/06/08/the-lopsided-universe/

Birdjaguar
Nov 20, 2008, 11:37 PM
Journalists suck.

Here it is from the horses mouth:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/06/08/the-lopsided-universe/Nice link, thanks. If one adds "purpose" to the universe, then the arrow of time makes perfect sense.

Another option might be that "consciousness" is somehow programmed to "see" or "experience" an arrow of time that does not exist out side of it.

Is there a reason that such an arrow must operate at the cosmic level rather than something lesser?

frekk
Nov 23, 2008, 02:18 AM
Nice link, thanks. If one adds "purpose" to the universe, then the arrow of time makes perfect sense.

Yeah, well, teleology is a quick fix for anything we don't understand. That's why they used to have thunder gods etc.

Loppan Torkel
Nov 23, 2008, 03:33 AM
Yeah, well, teleology is a quick fix for anything we don't understand. That's why they used to have thunder gods etc.Are you rejecting the possibility that thunder gods created this universe from the parent universe?

Birdjaguar
Nov 24, 2008, 10:25 PM
Yeah, well, teleology is a quick fix for anything we don't understand. That's why they used to have thunder gods etc.

Are you rejecting the possibility that thunder gods created this universe from the parent universe?
I don't think he is. He is just making an unsubstatiated claim that the unverse has no purpose. It is nice to see the scientific method at work.

Frekk, why did you ignore my other two points?

Souron
Dec 01, 2008, 10:28 PM
Nice link, thanks. If one adds "purpose" to the universe, then the arrow of time makes perfect sense.Purpose requires consciousness. But consciousness as we know it assumes the existence of time. So you're back to square 1.

Birdjaguar
Dec 03, 2008, 11:36 PM
Purpose requires consciousness. But consciousness as we know it assumes the existence of time. So you're back to square 1.Purpose does not have to be some grand scheme. It could begin small and even evolve. I think that only the most minimal "awareness" would be required to "facilitate" purpose and it might not even require "life". Now consciousness (I prefer "awareness" better) could create time rather than require it or assume it as a precondition.

Obviously definition of terms can get very important here.

Purpose: "something set up as an object or end to be attained" M-W.com. I don't like the "set up as" part of the definition because of its implicit inference of some other force at work. I prefer something like: A desire, need or tendency for change.

Consciousness/Awareness: a sense of separateness from one's surroundings. That expands consciousness to all life at a minimum.

Souron
Dec 04, 2008, 12:26 PM
Now consciousness (I prefer "awareness" better) could create time rather than require it or assume it as a precondition.
I can't imagine consciousness without time, but I can imagine time without consciousness. That does not make time a prerequisite of consciousness in every sense of the word, but it does in the following sense: if consciousness exists, then so does time.

How does consciousness/awareness create time?

I can think of one reason why it can't create time in our universe:
Consciousness/Awareness requires a minimal level of thought. Thought is reorganization of information; it is a form of computation. This is achieved by taking a chaotic, but unbalanced state, and organising it into a more ordered and uniform state, with a bunch of disordered side effects in the form of heat. This is how computers work, and how the brain is presumed to work. And in our universe this process can only consistently occur in one direction: forward in time.

Birdjaguar
Dec 04, 2008, 08:51 PM
Now consciousness (I prefer "awareness" better) could create time rather than require it or assume it as a precondition.
I can't imagine consciousness without time, but I can imagine time without consciousness. That does not make time a prerequisite of consciousness in every sense of the word, but it does in the following sense: if consciousness exists, then so does time.

How does consciousness/awareness create time?

I can think of one reason why it can't create time in our universe:
Consciousness/Awareness requires a minimal level of thought. Thought is reorganization of information; it is a form of computation. This is achieved by taking a chaotic, but unbalanced state, and organising it into a more ordered and uniform state, with a bunch of disordered side effects in the form of heat. This is how computers work, and how the brain is presumed to work. And in our universe this process can only consistently occur in one direction: forward in time.

So it looks like we can agree that the act of two atoms forming a bond is an act of "awareness" or "consciousness" at some very basic level.

The tendancy (purpose/desire/need) of say hydrogen atoms to bond in pairs might illustrate my point. A single H atom, if given the chance, will bond with another H atom. How do H atoms know when there is another single near by? I would say that is "awareness" of some sort. When they get close, the various charges & forces at work come into play and a bond is formed.

H atoms have a built in "purpose" (bond if given the chance) to find themselves in the most stable state they can. They are "aware" of when those opportunities arise and as a result they creat a change. Time is just the measure of going from stage 1 to stage 2. Time moves forward because the after is different from the before. If you remove change, time goes away. Awareness and purpose create change which is time.

Souron
Dec 05, 2008, 12:23 AM
So it looks like we can agree that the act of two atoms forming a bond is an act of "awareness" or "consciousness" at some very basic level.

The tendancy (purpose/desire/need) of say hydrogen atoms to bond in pairs might illustrate my point. A single H atom, if given the chance, will bond with another H atom. How do H atoms know when there is another single near by? I would say that is "awareness" of some sort. When they get close, the various charges & forces at work come into play and a bond is formed. How does that constitute "a sense of separateness from one's surroundings." Atoms have not consept of themselves. They are fuzzy interaction of particles bound by other particles to stay close together. It is only humans who associate a separateness to them.

It seems what you are arguing has nothing to do with consciousness or awareness, however, des[pite your choice of terms.

H atoms have a built in "purpose" (bond if given the chance) to find themselves in the most stable state they can. They are "aware" of when those opportunities arise and as a result they creat a change. Time is just the measure of going from stage 1 to stage 2. Time moves forward because the after is different from the before. If you remove change, time goes away. Awareness and purpose create change which is time.Change can be measured with respect to any variable, not just time. If you have still picture, it can be said to change as you look from bottom to top.

Furthermore, time does not always imply change. Imagine an unstable isotope. At any given moment it can decay into something stable. But at first it doesn't -- it stays the same -- not even moving with respect to anything relevant. Then suddenly at some point it decays. The time at which it decays is a countable quality greater than an instant, even though nothing has changed since the start of the scenario. Nothing except the progression of time. The time at which it decays may be particularly important to an outside observer measuring its half life. It is a meaningful quantity that is not a measure of change.

Birdjaguar
Dec 06, 2008, 02:42 PM
How does that constitute "a sense of separateness from one's surroundings." Atoms have not consept of themselves. They are fuzzy interaction of particles bound by other particles to stay close together. It is only humans who associate a separateness to them.

It seems what you are arguing has nothing to do with consciousness or awareness, however, des[pite your choice of terms. I am not saying that atoms are conscious of themselves as people are, but that because they interact with other atoms there is a point at which the interaction takes place and a point beyond which it does not. The forces that create the interaction do so when proximity or conditions allow it. I see that as a very basic sense of "awareness". If you put two hydrogen atoms together and they bond because of the various quantum forces at work, that bond happens because the positive or negative forces at work are "aware" of a situation where interaction is possible.

Quantum forces have a tendency (purpose?) to interact in a specific way when circumstances permit or are encouraged. We see those interactions taking place between two or more different entities and as a result, something is different after the interaction. The change might well be a more stable situation for the entities involved.

Now you might say that the electro chemical interaction between sub atomic elements in matter is a "hardwired" automatic process without any consciousness issues associated with it. I would say that the interactivity threshold that force A has for force B is a very rudimentary form of awareness. But it is not "thought", or "life-like".


Change can be measured with respect to any variable, not just time. If you have still picture, it can be said to change as you look from bottom to top. I think that is a different use of the word change. The picture hasn't changed, just our view of it. Now a polaroid photo does change as it developes in front of you.


Furthermore, time does not always imply change. Imagine an unstable isotope. At any given moment it can decay into something stable. But at first it doesn't -- it stays the same -- not even moving with respect to anything relevant. Then suddenly at some point it decays. The time at which it decays is a countable quality greater than an instant, even though nothing has changed since the start of the scenario. Nothing except the progression of time. The time at which it decays may be particularly important to an outside observer measuring its half life. It is a meaningful quantity that is not a measure of change.I would say that in your example: if the unstable isotope is completely isolated from all else, there is no time until it does decay (ignoring changes at the quantum level for now). The only reason we still see the passage of time is that we have other changing references around us that say time has passed. The lamp post on the corner doesn't appear change from day to day, but one day it falls over because it as been there 100 years. (Yes I know that over those years the metal has deteriorated creating the inevitable future failure.) The idea as just to illustrate that there are myriad rates of change that surround us that maintain our sense of time.

If all change in the universe, at every level from the largest astronomical dimension to the smallest quantum event, stopped, what would happen to time?

All we do is stop all change leaving everythng else intact. Would time pass?

Souron
Dec 07, 2008, 01:43 PM
I am not saying that atoms are conscious of themselves as people are, but that because they interact with other atoms there is a point at which the interaction takes place and a point beyond which it does not. The forces that create the interaction do so when proximity or conditions allow it. I see that as a very basic sense of "awareness". If you put two hydrogen atoms together and they bond because of the various quantum forces at work, that bond happens because the positive or negative forces at work are "aware" of a situation where interaction is possible.

Quantum forces have a tendency (purpose?) to interact in a specific way when circumstances permit or are encouraged. We see those interactions taking place between two or more different entities and as a result, something is different after the interaction. The change might well be a more stable situation for the entities involved.

Now you might say that the electro chemical interaction between sub atomic elements in matter is a "hardwired" automatic process without any consciousness issues associated with it. I would say that the interactivity threshold that force A has for force B is a very rudimentary form of awareness. But it is not "thought", or "life-like".I get what you are saying, but it seems to me that you are taking this metaphor of consciousness so far that it ceases to be a useful comparison.

I think that is a different use of the word change. The picture hasn't changed, just our view of it. Now a polaroid photo does change as it developes in front of you.But it's exactly the same thing. In one case you are observing something change with respect to time, in another with respect to the up-down axis. All the things you said about time can just as easily be said about space.

Now you could define time as being only change with respect to time, but that's a circular definition that doesn't tell us anything new about time.

I would say that in your example: if the unstable isotope is completely isolated from all else, there is no time until it does decay (ignoring changes at the quantum level for now). The only reason we still see the passage of time is that we have other changing references around us that say time has passed. The lamp post on the corner doesn't appear change from day to day, but one day it falls over because it as been there 100 years. (Yes I know that over those years the metal has deteriorated creating the inevitable future failure.) The idea as just to illustrate that there are myriad rates of change that surround us that maintain our sense of time.How can there be different rates of change, if time is defined as the amount of change that happens to an object?

The universe is not like a computer where everything that happens can be reduced to singe atomic clock tick operation. Rather, time is fluid such that there is an infinite number of instances between any two points in time.

If all change in the universe, at every level from the largest astronomical dimension to the smallest quantum event, stopped, what would happen to time?

All we do is stop all change leaving everythng else intact. Would time pass?
Sure why not. It wouldn't be useful, and impossible to measure, but it would still be there.

But quantum mechanics prohibits this from happening. The only exceptional possibility is the Big Crunch, when not only time but space would disappear.

Birdjaguar
Dec 09, 2008, 09:38 PM
I get what you are saying, but it seems to me that you are taking this metaphor of consciousness so far that it ceases to be a useful comparison. In the last 50 years or so we have changed the perception of what separates humans from other living things. Most of the things thought to be human only traits have been found in other species. The lines are blurring. I think that we will go further still and blur the lines between more and more species of life. And while "life" has a very specific definition, I think we are on the road to recognizing that what separates life from non life is more definitional than actual. I see awareness/consciousness as a continuum that begins at some remote quantum/chemical level and stretches to the higher life forms we know about gaining complexity as it moves along. Where it goes from here we don't know.

Here is a short quote from the current Discover that struck home when I read it. It is talking about dark mater and supersymmetric particles and the expecrted discoveries of the LHC.


...remember that, according to quantum mechanics, those particles are also waves on a sea that pervades the universe--and we are like fish in tha sea, slowly cottoning to what's around us. "The equations tell us that what we perceive as empty space is in fact not empty." Wilczek explains. "It's a material that changes the way things behave. We are embedded in this material, we know it is there, but we don't know what it is made of. The LHC is the instrument that's going to tell us."

I think we will find that not only are we embedded in "it", but that "it" is embedded in us. I am only trying to blur the lines a bit more and slightly alter your view of how things might be.

But it's exactly the same thing. In one case you are observing something change with respect to time, in another with respect to the up-down axis. All the things you said about time can just as easily be said about space.

Now you could define time as being only change with respect to time, but that's a circular definition that doesn't tell us anything new about time.So we need to define change too. I would say that the picture doesn't change, it is still the same picture, it is just what we see as we scan the paper changes. And while the colors at the top of the picture may be different than those at the bottom or in the middle, the picture doesn't change once it is taken. But I do understand what you are getting at. I would say that you are talking about noticing differences in appearances that are "fixed" and not dynamic.

How can there be different rates of change, if time is defined as the amount of change that happens to an object? It is only our units of measure that change. The changes in the position or state of an electron are measured in attoseconds, my work day in hours, evolution in millions of years. Change is constant and independent of our unts of measure which we apply for convenience. Attoseconds are not very useful for most of what we do. Units of time are how we measure change. Our brains allow us to recognize change and tools help us see more changes. Time is/are the labels we apply to those changes we see.

The universe is not like a computer where everything that happens can be reduced to singe atomic clock tick operation. Rather, time is fluid such that there is an infinite number of instances between any two points in time.Mathematically you are correct, but what if we discover a single fundamental particle/wave or two that have four states and those four states combine themselves in such ways that all "things" can be made. If there is no bottom to the "most fundamental particle pit", then you are correct.

The rate of those changes would be the smallest unit of real time. A change from state 1 to state 2 creates a difference. With billions upon billions of quantum changes every attosecond, the universe is never the same. Each attosecond creates a whole new universe. Time is how we keep track of those changes.

There are religions that would say time doesn't exist and it is just the perception of a flawed consciousness. ;)

Souron
Dec 10, 2008, 02:05 AM
In the last 50 years or so we have changed the perception of what separates humans from other living things. Most of the things thought to be human only traits have been found in other species. The lines are blurring. I think that we will go further still and blur the lines between more and more species of life. And while "life" has a very specific definition, I think we are on the road to recognizing that what separates life from non life is more definitional than actual. I see awareness/consciousness as a continuum that begins at some remote quantum/chemical level and stretches to the higher life forms we know about gaining complexity as it moves along. Where it goes from here we don't know.

Here is a short quote from the current Discover that struck home when I read it. It is talking about dark mater and supersymmetric particles and the expecrted discoveries of the LHC.

I think we will find that not only are we embedded in "it", but that "it" is embedded in us. I am only trying to blur the lines a bit more and slightly alter your view of how things might be.See for me, consciousness is the possibly fuzzy or mythical line that separates humans from mechanical clocks. So telling me that things like mechanical clocks have consciousness doesn't make seance to me. Consciousness and clockwork are opposites to me. Surely clocks don't have "a sense of separateness from [their] surroundings". Surely I do.

Aside: I hope my play on the word clockwork does not confuse this discussion of time.
So we need to define change too. I would say that the picture doesn't change, it is still the same picture, it is just what we see as we scan the paper changes. And while the colors at the top of the picture may be different than those at the bottom or in the middle, the picture doesn't change once it is taken. But I do understand what you are getting at. I would say that you are talking about noticing differences in appearances that are "fixed" and not dynamic.I don't think you quite get my point.

The picture as a whole is the same, but that is analogous to saying that a movie does not change from watching it. What is changing on both cases are the colors and lines that comprise the picture and movie. These change with respect to time in the case of a movie, and with respect to space in the case of a picture. There is no fundamental difference between the two kinds of changes. Time is after all just another dimension.

It is only our units of measure that change. The changes in the position or state of an electron are measured in attoseconds, my work day in hours, evolution in millions of years. Change is constant and independent of our unts of measure which we apply for convenience. Attoseconds are not very useful for most of what we do. Units of time are how we measure change. Our brains allow us to recognize change and tools help us see more changes. Time is/are the labels we apply to those changes we see.No, a lamp post might decay in 100 years, or the equivalent time in Attoseconds, but it is not the units that determine when it decays. I chose the isotope example because it is an example of spontaneous behavior as far as we know. Isotopes, technically nuclides, do not decay slowly over time, but suddenly. Each isotope (type of nuclide) has a different chance of decaying at any given moment, but for all of them there are no intermediate steps; at one point it's a stable atom, at the next it falls apart. Now sure there is a process of reorganization and moving apart, but that happens after the atom starts to decay.

So for each nuclide there are two states that potentially have no other changes between them: that of being oneatom , and that of being two atoms. Yet there is an externally measurable time during which the nuclide maintains the first state. Furthermore this duration varies in a way not proportional to the amount of change between the two states. I therefore argue that time is external to the decay of unstable atoms, and by extension to everything else.

Mathematically you are correct, but what if we discover a single fundamental particle/wave or two that have four states and those four states combine themselves in such ways that all "things" can be made. If there is no bottom to the "most fundamental particle pit", then you are correct.

The rate of those changes would be the smallest unit of real time. A change from state 1 to state 2 creates a difference. With billions upon billions of quantum changes every attosecond, the universe is never the same. Each attosecond creates a whole new universe. Time is how we keep track of those changes.

There are religions that would say time doesn't exist and it is just the perception of a flawed consciousness. ;) I am out of my league to speculate as to the possibilities and implications of discrete time.

From what I do know about quantum theory states that some variables in nature are discrete and some are continuous. In particular angular momentum is discrete and time is continuous. I do not understand the differential equations that lead to these conclusions, so in my ignorance I am inclined to trust the scientists that drew them.

On the other hand the theory of loop quantum gravity, which I understand even less, does feature diagrams that appear to show discrete time and space. As this is a viable theory of quantum gravity, it is presumably consistent with quantum theory.

warpus
Dec 10, 2008, 08:12 PM
The universe is not like a computer where everything that happens can be reduced to singe atomic clock tick operation. Rather, time is fluid such that there is an infinite number of instances between any two points in time.

Not quite! You're forgetting Planck time.

Souron
Dec 11, 2008, 07:25 PM
Not quite! You're forgetting Planck time.Different sources I look at have different things to say about the Plank length and Plank time.

Many say that the plank length is simply the length at which quantum fluctuation become enormous. In particular Dr Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, which is the only book on the subject I have on hand at the moment, gives this definition.

Other sources seem to say that it is the smallest unit of length. For example this undergrad (http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae281.cfm?CFID=12449184&CFTOKEN=21620444) calls it quantum of length. I have yet to see any Phd bearers make such a claim, but I haven't looked that much. I think this is simply a misunderstanding among students. The plank length is the smallest measurable length, because it is impossible to build a more precise measuring instrument, not because smaller distances don't exist. It is the length at which quantum fluctuations become so great that you can't get conclusions out of trying to measuring it.

Plank time is defined in terms of the Plank length, so properties of Plank time should be the same as the Plank length.

Birdjaguar
Dec 14, 2008, 02:48 PM
See for me, consciousness is the possibly fuzzy or mythical line that separates humans from mechanical clocks. So telling me that things like mechanical clocks have consciousness doesn't make seance to me. Consciousness and clockwork are opposites to me. Surely clocks don't have "a sense of separateness from [their] surroundings". Surely I do.I would not attriubte consciousness to clocks or to things that we assemble from inanimate matter. But I would grant primative, limited, a lesser degree of consciousness to atoms and molecules that make up inanimate matter. As I said earlier I would extend consciousness in lesser and lesser degrees from humans down through the chain of life and into in animate matter at the atomic level.

Where do you draw the fuzzy line that separates a conscious entity from one that is not?


I don't think you quite get my point.

The picture as a whole is the same, but that is analogous to saying that a movie does not change from watching it. What is changing on both cases are the colors and lines that comprise the picture and movie. These change with respect to time in the case of a movie, and with respect to space in the case of a picture. There is no fundamental difference between the two kinds of changes. Time is after all just another dimension.I do think it is a defintion problem. A photograph is different at the top than at the bottom, we say it "changes", but it really doesn't change in the same way an atom changes states or a snail grows. A movie is just a series of still photos athat are different art one end of the reel than the other. the movie doesn't really change as we watch it. Now as we watch it our expereince of what we see changes and those changes create before and after states for us that creates a sense of time.

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. A performance of 4′33″ can be perceived as including the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, rather than merely as four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence[6] and has become one of the most controversial compositions of the century.

What happens to our sense of time in an isolation tank when we lose all our reference points to change?

No, a lamp post might decay in 100 years, or the equivalent time in Attoseconds, but it is not the units that determine when it decays. I chose the isotope example because it is an example of spontaneous behavior as far as we know. Isotopes, technically nuclides, do not decay slowly over time, but suddenly. Each isotope (type of nuclide) has a different chance of decaying at any given moment, but for all of them there are no intermediate steps; at one point it's a stable atom, at the next it falls apart. Now sure there is a process of reorganization and moving apart, but that happens after the atom starts to decay.

So for each nuclide there are two states that potentially have no other changes between them: that of being oneatom , and that of being two atoms. Yet there is an externally measurable time during which the nuclide maintains the first state. Furthermore this duration varies in a way not proportional to the amount of change between the two states. I therefore argue that time is external to the decay of unstable atoms, and by extension to everything else.I would say that if we take the isotope example and isolate the isotope from everything else, then there is no time until we have a moment of change that provides us a reference point. If all creation consisted solely of this single isotope and nothing more, then there would be no time until it spontaneously became two. At that point, time begins because we have change. We have a before and an after. Time always measures, denotes, references a state berfore and a state after. I don't see it as a force or dimension or an influencer of any sort, just a notation that now is different from before.

Souron
Dec 14, 2008, 08:15 PM
I would not attriubte consciousness to clocks or to things that we assemble from inanimate matter. But I would grant primative, limited, a lesser degree of consciousness to atoms and molecules that make up inanimate matter. As I said earlier I would extend consciousness in lesser and lesser degrees from humans down through the chain of life and into in animate matter at the atomic level.

Where do you draw the fuzzy line that separates a conscious entity from one that is not?Mechanical clocks work by making use of a set of machanical laws that apply to things of their scale. Specifically they work by having a steadily unwinding spring who's unwind speed is converted to three different hand speed. As it happens the mechanics involved are very local, such that only contact can trigger a change. But it is not the locality of events that makes these machines unaware. Rather it is the strict adherence to mechanical laws.

Atom and molecules also strictly adhere to mechanical laws, although their laws are very different. These laws happen to be non local and probabilistic in nature. Nevertheless they are well understood (mathematically), and can be used to make predictions about any such systems. Therefore although the rules are different, atoms and molecules still follow a kind of clockwork of their own.

I do not know exactly where to draw the line of what is conscious and what isn't, but saying atoms are conscious is diffidently too broad.

I do think it is a defintion problem. A photograph is different at the top than at the bottom, we say it "changes", but it really doesn't change in the same way an atom changes states or a snail grows. A movie is just a series of still photos athat are different art one end of the reel than the other. the movie doesn't really change as we watch it. Now as we watch it our expereince of what we see changes and those changes create before and after states for us that creates a sense of time.

...Time always measures, denotes, references a state berfore and a state after. I don't see it as a force or dimension or an influencer of any sort, just a notation that now is different from before.A photograph changes with respect to the the y and x axis on it's plane, where as a snail changes with respect to time. Time and space aren't the same, but they are both just variables we perceive. Before and after is the same as left and right, and is even often represented that way on paper.

The difference that we perceive between time and space is that we can remember things in either direction in space, but only things that came before with time. Yet this isn't a statement about humans not time.

I call time a dimensions because for each three dimensional spacial position, a fourth time variable can be used to define an large, even infinite, amount of other places. We are agreed it is not a force or an influencer of any sort.
I would say that if we take the isotope example and isolate the isotope from everything else, then there is no time until we have a moment of change that provides us a reference point. If all creation consisted solely of this single isotope and nothing more, then there would be no time until it spontaneously became two. At that point, time begins because we have change. We have a before and an after. Certainly there is little point and no ability to measure time when nothing changes. But that doesn't mean that it isn't there.

What happens to our sense of time in an isolation tank when we lose all our reference points to change?You don't need to be in an isolation tank to lose track of time. The human perception of time is fickle. If we focus to hard on a complex task, time seems to go by quickly. If we instead focus on a simple task, time seem to go by slowly.

You are right that time cannot usefully be measured without references that everybody agrees on. But, the fact that such references exist is further evidence that time is external to consciousness.


I'm confused what point you were trying to make with the wiki quote.

Ball Lightning
Dec 31, 2008, 04:26 AM
Here is a link for it at New Scientist:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026861.500-did-our-cosmos-exist-before-the-big-bang.html

Birdjaguar
Jan 08, 2009, 10:47 PM
I do not know exactly where to draw the line of what is conscious and what isn't, but saying atoms are conscious is diffidently too broad.


I kinda lost track of this as NESing took over my posting recently, but I was reading an article in Science NEWs and came across this tidbit that reminded me:

Under this assumption, masculine features may signal a strong and protective partner, while feminine features communicate youth and fertility. Asymmetries would signal underlying developmental instability. An individual’s genetic profile would also contribute to averageness.

Lie and her colleagues Gill Rhodes and Leigh Simmons, both also of the University of Western Australia, connected averageness, genetic profile and attractiveness in a recent study. In male faces, attractiveness signaled diversity within the major histocompatibility complex, the team reports in the October 2008 Evolution.

This cluster of 128 genes and surrounding genetic material plays an important role in the immune system. The genes encode molecules on the cell surface that recognize self from nonself and detect pathogens and parasites. In rhesus macaques, diversity in the MHC has been linked to reproductive success. And female fat-tailed dwarf lemurs have been shown to prefer males with greater MHC diversity.

I find the wording quite appropriate for this. How is recognizing sef from non self not some form of consciousness or awareness? :)

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/39616/title/It’s_written_all_over_your_face

Perfection
Jan 08, 2009, 11:37 PM
Question is, is that recognition as we experience it? I claim compared to our experience of recognition is far more then what's going on here. Is a computer with a program that scans images and can tell if it is a picture of itself or some other computer experiencing the same sort of thing as us when we look in the mirror or perform introspection? I say clearly not!

In any case, you're appealing to functionalism here to try to discredit functionalism which is sorta self-defeating.

warpus
Jan 08, 2009, 11:38 PM
I could write a computer program that recognizes itself (ie. recognizes its own compiled code), but that wouldn't make it self-aware or conscious in any way.

Perfection
Jan 08, 2009, 11:46 PM
Okay, do it!

Birdjaguar
Jan 09, 2009, 12:08 AM
Question is, is that recognition as we experience it? I claim compared to our experience of recognition is far more then what's going on here. Is a computer with a program that scans images and can tell if it is a picture of itself or some other computer experiencing the same sort of thing as us when we look in the mirror or perform introspection? I say clearly not!Certainly it is not like what we experience, but as I said it would seem to be a lesser form of awareness and I would contend that as one moves up the chain of complexity from atoms and molecules to simple life and then to more complex life, the degree of self-awareness" increases.

As far as human made devices go, I would say they fall into a different category because we have created the device to do specific things. Whatever awareness you program into a piece of software, it is more similar to an alarm clock knowing to go off at 6:00 than it is to an elephant touching a dot on its forehead.

warpus
Jan 09, 2009, 12:08 AM
Okay, do it!

File f = new File("me.exe");
FileInputStream fis = new FileInputStream(f);
BufferedInputStream bis = new BufferedInputStream(fis);
DataInputStream dis = new DataInputStream(bis);

if (dis.readLine().substring(14) == ''MZ   ") {
System.out.println("It's me!"); {
} else {
System.out.println("Who tf");
}

Millman
Jan 16, 2009, 03:14 AM
What's with this debate on self-awareness?

The topic of this thread is that they believe 'something' might have existed before the universe as we know it.

But if they can read something from the past in the present time it means we are viewing time constantly in incomplete parts.

Think of it like a history book in a school. Although you can't experience the history itself you can read back and get hints of what's it's like. This might be a bad analogy.

Life has found a way to time capsule so we can figure out one day where we come from otherwise there would be 'NO' clues as to our origins if you believe in that.

Souron
Jan 17, 2009, 02:56 AM
I kinda lost track of this as NESing took over my posting recently, but I was reading an article in Science NEWs and came across this tidbit that reminded me:



I find the wording quite appropriate for this. How is recognizing sef from non self not some form of consciousness or awareness? :)

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/39616/title/Its_written_all_over_your_face
Here self from non self is referring to recognizing different copies of itself, which is not what consciousness is about. It's akin to a person recognizing pictures of his own body, which most people can do, but it isn't a defining trait of being self aware.

Also the description is a metaphor. The molecules aren't actually aware of what they react with, they just react differently to identical molecules, compared to differing molecules.

Birdjaguar
Jan 22, 2009, 05:39 PM
Here self from non self is referring to recognizing different copies of itself, which is not what consciousness is about. It's akin to a person recognizing pictures of his own body, which most people can do, but it isn't a defining trait of being self aware.

Also the description is a metaphor. The molecules aren't actually aware of what they react with, they just react differently to identical molecules, compared to differing molecules.You are assuming that awareness of self has a clearly defined border that is somewhere high in the animal kingdom.

I cannot think of any justification for a hard edge at all. It makes far more sense to have it on a continuum without an edge in either direction.

Souron
Jan 25, 2009, 01:29 PM
I didn't say it has a clearly defined border. The border is quite fuzzy. But yes it is high in the animal kingdom. Individual immune system cells are not self aware. They only act like they recognize other cells that have similar genetic markers.

Birdjaguar
Jan 25, 2009, 06:03 PM
I didn't say it has a clearly defined border. The border is quite fuzzy. But yes it is high in the animal kingdom. Individual immune system cells are not self aware. They only act like they recognize other cells that have similar genetic markers.
And some examples would be what? Please include some that are self aware and others that are not.

Souron
Jan 25, 2009, 10:09 PM
And some examples would be what? Please include some that are self aware and others that are not.
I was going to say that elephants are the best example besides humans, do to their having a death ritual, but wikipedia seems to have a more complete well sourced list.

Self-awareness#Self-awareness_in_animals
Mirror test

Birdjaguar
Jan 25, 2009, 11:13 PM
I was going to say that elephants are the best example besides humans, do to their having a death ritual, but wikipedia seems to have a more complete well sourced list.

Self-awareness#Self-awareness_in_animals
Mirror test
Elephants, apes, dolphins, magpies all seem to have passed the mirror test. But is such a test the only judge of self awareness?

Self-awareness is the concept that one exists as an individual, separate from other people, with private thoughts. It may also include the understanding that other people are similarly self-aware.

Self-awareness is a self-conscious state in which attention focuses on oneself. It makes people more sensitive to their own attitudes and dispositions.Now the wiki definition is very anthrocentric, as if only humans could be self aware even though it does link to the mirroe test.

Now according tho the mirror test dogs are not self aware. But having watched a dog stop before crossing a busy street and then wait until the traffic was clear before crossing, I cannot believe that dogs are not. They look, make a choice to stop, wait and make another choice to go. They are aware that the cars are something other than themselves. They certainly see themselves as separate from, but in a changing environment.

Dogs certainly have feelings and can love a person. How is experiencing the joy and anguish of love not self awareness?

warpus
Jan 26, 2009, 11:51 AM
Ok dogs, you might have a case, but cells?

you make quite a leap there, mr. jaguar

Birdjaguar
Jan 26, 2009, 08:18 PM
Ok dogs, you might have a case, but cells?

you make quite a leap there, mr. jaguar
It is quite a leap in thinking, you're right. ;) It comes down to how we define "self aware". If we define it as being able to respond to changes in one's environment, then lots of doors suddenly open. If we define it narrowly to protect humanity from interlopers, then hsitory has taught us that such definitions will most likely fail as the elephants, dolphins, apes and magpies have shown and dogs you have aluded to.

If you accept dogs, how about cats, then how about rabbits etc. Rather than try to draw a line that is very difficult to defend, I would rather just make it a continuum along which the degee of awareness changes as one moves up and down it. More awareness would provide for greater ability to use that awareness to affect ones situation. Cells can be very responsive to changes around them, they are just limited in how they can respond.

warpus
Jan 27, 2009, 03:57 PM
I still haven't seen you argue in any sort of convicing way that cells are self-aware, in any sort of useful meaning of the word.

I mean, you can re-define self-aware to make anything fit the criteria, but that's just not very useful.

Souron
Jan 27, 2009, 05:12 PM
Birdjaguar, I can't respond to you in any way except to repeat what I said before. You are using the word so broadly, that things classified as the opposite of aware would be instead classified as aware by your definition. Therefore the definition is useless.

Awareness has a specific definition: the ability to recognize self from non self. Atoms, molecules, cells, they cannot do this. Humans can.

Birdjaguar
Jan 27, 2009, 09:56 PM
I still haven't seen you argue in any sort of convicing way that cells are self-aware, in any sort of useful meaning of the word.

I mean, you can re-define self-aware to make anything fit the criteria, but that's just not very useful.

Birdjaguar, I can't respond to you in any way except to repeat what I said before. You are using the word so broadly, that things classified as the opposite of aware would be instead classified as aware by your definition. Therefore the definition is useless.

Your objections are similar, so I will not respond separately.

What would you say is a useful definition of "self aware" then?

Clearly, with the addition of elephants, apes, dolphins and birds to the self aware list, our previous assumptions have gone by the wayside. One approach to the problem is to have a test for it, like the mirror test and then only include those critters that past the test. This merely defines self aware as a "high test score" making the definition more restrictive and therefore less useful.

There was a time when being human was defined as having tool making ability, or having specific higher cognitive skills. Those old fashioned notions are rapidly fading away as we learn more about other species.

Some folks would like to draw a hard line: "Only humans are self aware." Period, end of story. Science does not seem to accept that anymore and it is getting harder and harder to draw another hard line that divides self aware critters from those that are not. I'd love to hear your suggestions though.

Are dogs self aware even if the fail the mirror test? Is self awareness more complex than the mirror test? Or is it simpler?

The easiest would be to draw it a the life/non life border and say that life creates self awareness.

Awareness has a specific definition: the ability to recognize self from non self. Atoms, molecules, cells, they cannot do this. Humans can.that is a pretty big jump from atoms and cells to humans. What about all the things in between? ;)

Your definition hinges on what it means to "recognize". 2: to acknowledge or take notice of in some definite way:
It seems to me that when a cell comes in proximity of another cell and then it reacts to that proximity by doing something, it has recognized "self from non self". Explain to me how that is not so.

Now you say that a broader definition is less useful because it changes the staus quo and things thought of as non self aware suddenly become self aware. By broadening the definition, new ways of thinking about things are possible and new comparisons can be made. By allowing magpies to be included among the self aware, we have to think aobut ourselves and other living things differently. The wider definition enhances the opportunity for discovery, not limit it.

warpus
Jan 30, 2009, 01:14 PM
I could program a function in C++ to recognize itself. That doesn't really make it self-aware, does it?

Souron
Jan 30, 2009, 06:36 PM
I could program a function in C++ to recognize itself. That doesn't really make it self-aware, does it?A function isn't a physical thing, so calling it or not calling it self aware does not tell us anything about the consciousness of physical entities.

Souron
Jan 30, 2009, 07:15 PM
Birdjaguar the definition of consciousness is strait forward, you quoted it yourself earlier in this thread. The only thing blurry about it is that it is hard to know that another thing is self aware. But that does not make the definition itself blurry.

Are dogs self aware even if the fail the mirror test? Is self awareness more complex than the mirror test? Or is it simpler?The mirror test proves self awareness, but it does not define it.

The easiest would be to draw it a the life/non life border and say that life creates self awareness.Then why bother calling it consciousness. The border between life and non life is the ability to reproduce using internal machinery. This is not the same as the border between awareness and non awareness.

Your definition hinges on what it means to "recognize".I think we can agree what it means to recognize something.

It seems to me that when a cell comes in proximity of another cell and then it reacts to that proximity by doing something, it has recognized "self from non self". Explain to me how that is not so.Cells can't think. All they do is detect the chemicals of adjacent cells, and react in a manner predicted by the laws of chemistry. It's not even cells doing the detecting, but the chemicals on their surface. A cell is only considered a separate thing because it is useful for us as humans to model it that way. But the line is much more blurry than we make it out to be. When you take an real look at it, a cell is just an drop of water, surrounded by a thin layer of oil.

Now you say that a broader definition is less useful because it changes the staus quo and things thought of as non self aware suddenly become self aware. By broadening the definition, new ways of thinking about things are possible and new comparisons can be made. By allowing magpies to be included among the self aware, we have to think aobut ourselves and other living things differently. The wider definition enhances the opportunity for discovery, not limit it.Changing the dictionary does not induce new thought, it just makes you harder to understand.

Birdjaguar
Jan 30, 2009, 08:36 PM
The mirror test proves self awareness, but it does not define it. Could a critter be self aware and still fail the mirror test?

Then why bother calling it consciousness. The border between life and non life is the ability to reproduce using internal machinery. This is not the same as the border between awareness and non awareness.Where do you put that border then? Are dogs self aware?

Cells can't think. All they do is detect the chemicals of adjacent cells, and react in a manner predicted by the laws of chemistry. It's not even cells doing the detecting, but the chemicals on their surface. A cell is only considered a separate thing because it is useful for us as humans to model it that way. But the line is much more blurry than we make it out to be. When you take an real look at it, a cell is just an drop of water, surrounded by a thin layer of oil. And do our brains do anything more than that?

Changing the dictionary does not induce new thought, it just makes you harder to understand.:lol: Touche!

Souron
Jan 30, 2009, 09:11 PM
Could a critter be self aware and still fail the mirror test?Yes. Certainly the mirror test is not effective on animals that don't rely on sight greatly.

Where do you put that border then? Are dogs self aware?Probably not. They have emotion, but that is not the same as consciousness. Then again, maybe the reason dogs fail the mirror test is that their reflection does not smell anything like them.

And do our brains do anything more than that?Well yes, we as humans can imagine the concept of ourselves. Each of us considers ourselves as distinct from other people. Now we don't really know what physical process is going on under the hood, but the result is apparent. I think of myself as distinct from the world around me.

Individual cells show no indication of being able to have such a concept.


Note also that there is a whole spectrum of words to refer the various things that are generally thought to separate humans from animals. Wikipedia seems to have a template on the matter

Birdjaguar
Jan 30, 2009, 11:28 PM
I see the anthropomorphic approach to consciousness and self awreness that you seem to espouse just like the "Humans, the tool making animal" standards of my childhood. We defined ourselves in terms of an imagined gap between humans and the rest of life.

Tool use was once thought to distinguish humans from animal — until, that is, so many animals proved able to use them.

Granted, the fine folks at Leatherman aren't about to be undercut by cheap chimpanzee-manufactured multitools. But it's hard not to feel a species-level dj vu when seeing a gorilla using a walking stick or capuchin monkey thoughtfully selecting an ideal nut-cracking stone.

Below is a compilation of some of the most interesting animal tool use yet observed. Much more likely remains to be found: until Jane Goodall watched chimpanzees fishing for termites with sticks, scientists had been reluctant to credit animals with such sophisticated behavior — perhaps because, as Charles Darwin noted, “Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.” http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/01/animaltools.html

We have defined consciousness in a similar way: so that only humans fit the definition. And lo and behold, cracks in that imaginary world are appearing as we discover it may not just be a human trait. Now you can say that no other critter has the same consciousnes as a person and be correct. But that is not of much more use than saying "No one else has the same personality as me!" It may be correct, but so what? A more interesting question is how are our differeing personalities similar? Or what makes mine different from yours?

Like with tools, I suspect that we will see that consciousness/awareness will be found thoughout life and the task ahead will be to discover how it differs between people and elephants and dogs, as well as, how is it similar. The human inclination to set humanity apart from the animals is most likely a product of our greater awareness, but that does not make it true.

I am not claiming that dogs have human consciousness, only that they have dog consciousness which is less refined and less capable than ours, but none-the-less similar and connected to ours through evolutionary development.

Yes. Certainly the mirror test is not effective on animals that don't rely on sight greatly.

Probably not. They [dogs] have emotion, but that is not the same as consciousness. Then again, maybe the reason dogs fail the mirror test is that their reflection does not smell anything like them. So with a better test, you might accept that dogs are self aware? And with a better test we might be able to show that horses are self aware. If that is the case, then the problem is that we have not figured out how to test for awareness and not that the critters have it or not. History has often shown us that generally we assume things incorrectly and later figure out how wrong we were. I'm trying to give you a jump start on the future. ;)

Well yes, we as humans can imagine the concept of ourselves. Each of us considers ourselves as distinct from other people. Now we don't really know what physical process is going on under the hood, but the result is apparent. I think of myself as distinct from the world around me.I think it is apparent that dogs also think of themselves as distinct from other dogs, as well as, people. And with dogs we have even less knowledge of what is "going on under the hood".

Individual cells show no indication of being able to have such a concept.They may not think of themselves as people thinkl of themselves, or even "think" at all, but they do ssense what is around them and have the ability to respond to changes in that environment. Isn't that rudimentary awareness?

Souron
Jan 31, 2009, 01:06 AM
We defined ourselves in terms of an imagined gap between humans and the rest of life. Doing so justifies our treating the rest of life by a different standard then humans. It is widely believed that a humans life is more important that a pets life. The fact that that pet isn't self aware justifies this value assessment. If we cannot make that distinction, then a serious reconsideration of values must be considered.

As we are slowly learning, the difference that separates humans and animals is largely of the degree of applicability of certain traits, not the presence of any traits themselves. Self awareness seems one of those properties that is largely boolean, that humans have and that most animals don't. It is also a metric that is directly related to they way it is treated; if an animal is not self aware, then it's life has no value to itself, so the justification holds.

So with a better test, you might accept that dogs are self aware? And with a better test we might be able to show that horses are self aware. If that is the case, then the problem is that we have not figured out how to test for awareness and not that the critters have it or not. History has often shown us that generally we assume things incorrectly and later figure out how wrong we were. I'm trying to give you a jump start on the future. A better test may show that dogs are self aware, only if dogs actually self aware. If they aren't, you can try to improve the test as much as you want, you still won't get a different result.
You cannot argue that just because we tend to get things wrong most of the time that we are wrong this particular time.

I am not claiming that dogs have human consciousness, only that they have dog consciousness which is less refined and less capable than ours, but none-the-less similar and connected to ours through evolutionary development.You are applying a gradient scale, to something that should be a boolean state. Can you explain how something can be slightly self aware?

I think it is apparent that dogs also think of themselves as distinct from other dogs, as well as, people. And with dogs we have even less knowledge of what is "going on under the hood".If you want to argue that dogs are self aware, and should therefore be treated like humans, I won't stop you. I am inclined to disagree, but it is a disagreement on the traits of a dog, not of the definition of self awareness.

They may not think of themselves as people thinkl of themselves, or even "think" at all, but they do ssense what is around them and have the ability to respond to changes in that environment. Isn't that rudimentary awareness?It's no more of a sense of awareness then the ability of a planet to circle the sun, or piece of metal to cling to metal. Everything interacts with everything else according to natural laws. There is nothing special about that.

Ayatollah So
Jan 31, 2009, 06:31 AM
I'm confused about "time before the big bang". Wasn't the big bang the start of the three spacial dimensions and the time dimension? If so then time before that makes on sence. Its like saying whats -1m away from a point (without specifying a direction).

Thank you sir, I believe you nailed it.

I think they mean "before" in the causal sense; causes always precede effects, so whatever caused the big bang must have come "before" the big bang. We can think of it as defining (ordinal) time in terms of cause and effect. In this way, we don't need to refer to any specific notion of time at all.

Damn, that's clever. Now let me (and Perf) shoot it down:

So how would we determine which universe caused the existance of another?

In other words, what's causality without time (and entropy)?

Exactly: causality alone does not provide an arrow of time. Causality relates two things, but does not appoint either one "master".

I reject the notion that "it's elephants all the way down."

So do I. It's TURTLES all the way down! ;)

Ayatollah So
Jan 31, 2009, 06:51 AM
Here is a link for it at New Scientist:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026861.500-did-our-cosmos-exist-before-the-big-bang.html

Hmm, according to the link, the "time" in the "previous" universe really is the same old time as ours, in the theory. I guess it might just be turtles all the way down, after all.

Birdjaguar
Feb 02, 2009, 12:34 AM
Doing so justifies our treating the rest of life by a different standard then humans. It is widely believed that a humans life is more important that a pets life. The fact that that pet isn't self aware justifies this value assessment. If we cannot make that distinction, then a serious reconsideration of values must be considered.Exactly my point. The assumption that humans are better than other critters is one of our making without foundation. Racism and sexism have the same principles at their root.

As we are slowly learning, the difference that separates humans and animals is largely of the degree of applicability of certain traits, not the presence of any traits themselves. Self awareness seems one of those properties that is largely boolean, that humans have and that most animals don't. It is also a metric that is directly related to they way it is treated; if an animal is not self aware, then it's life has no value to itself, so the justification holds.Is your "boolean nature" claim of self awareness actually supported by any science or just wishful thinking and ignorance of the minds of other things?

A better test may show that dogs are self aware, only if dogs actually self aware. If they aren't, you can try to improve the test as much as you want, you still won't get a different result.
You cannot argue that just because we tend to get things wrong most of the time that we are wrong this particular time.Nor can you argue that jsut because dogs are not like humans they are not self aware.

You are applying a gradient scale, to something that should be a boolean state. Can you explain how something can be slightly self aware?As above, why should it be boolean?

If you want to argue that dogs are self aware, and should therefore be treated like humans, I won't stop you. I am inclined to disagree, but it is a disagreement on the traits of a dog, not of the definition of self awareness. I am not trying to argue that dogs or any other animals should be treated differently than they are. Self awareness is not a morality issue. Either it is boolean or works on a gradient scale. I don't think it can be both.

It's no more of a sense of awareness then the ability of a planet to circle the sun, or piece of metal to cling to metal. Everything interacts with everything else according to natural laws. There is nothing special about that.Nothing special? The natural laws seem pretty awesome to me.

Given that chemistry and the other laws of nature pretty much define everything in our world, why shouldn't they also define self awareness? On a gradient scale it makes perfect sense.

warpus
Feb 02, 2009, 07:18 PM
A function isn't a physical thing, so calling it or not calling it self aware does not tell us anything about the consciousness of physical entities.

Who says that consciousness has to be confined to physical entities? When exactly did that get established?

I was analyzing BirdJaguar's consciousness test and applied to to a scenario where it fails to be a useful.

You can't just say "oh but that's different, because computer programs aren't like people!", because his original definition did not specify anything about the entity having to be physical.

It is obviously wrong and/or incomplete. If you want to bring the physical into it, you're going to have to explain why that is a good quantifier.

Souron
Feb 03, 2009, 12:26 AM
Who says that consciousness has to be confined to physical entities? When exactly did that get established?

I was analyzing BirdJaguar's consciousness test and applied to to a scenario where it fails to be a useful.

You can't just say "oh but that's different, because computer programs aren't like people!", because his original definition did not specify anything about the entity having to be physical.

It is obviously wrong and/or incomplete. If you want to bring the physical into it, you're going to have to explain why that is a good quantifier.
Saying a function is conscious, is like saying that a hypothetical conscious being is couscous. What you would be doing is redefining consciousness as something that can be used in lambda calculus. That is a perfectly fine thing to do, but it doesn't tell us anything about the physical world.

Now if you had said you could program a robot to have consciousness, you would have a point (perhalps). With a program it's fuzzy; what is a program exactly? But a C++ function is clearly just a description of behavior. A description of the comparison of two numbers, two function pointers, interpreted as consciousness.

Ironically it is actually not possible to define a function that can directly recognize itself in C++. This because the definition is recursive: you would be defining a function that takes as a parameter a function that takes as a parameter a function ... ad infinitum. You can however define a function that recognizes itself in a box, that is a function take takes a struct containing itself.

warpus
Feb 03, 2009, 09:53 AM
Saying a function is conscious, is like saying that a hypothetical conscious being is couscous. What you would be doing is redefining consciousness as something that can be used in lambda calculus. That is a perfectly fine thing to do, but it doesn't tell us anything about the physical world.

I see you're slowly catching on!

The absurdity of my scenario illustrates the absurdity of the claim that cells can be conscious.

Souron
Feb 04, 2009, 08:18 PM
Exactly my point. The assumption that humans are better than other critters is one of our making without foundation. Racism and sexism have the same principles at their root.Consiousness is an example of such a foundation. The capacity for pain is another. So is the capacity for judgment. Admittedly, all of these have been arived by working backwards from the assumption that humans are better, but if the data fits the conjecture, then conjecture becomes justified.

Is your "boolean nature" claim of self awareness actually supported by any science or just wishful thinking and ignorance of the minds of other things?

As above, why should it be boolean?How can somebody be partially aware? Awareness is a Boolean condition by definition.

Nor can you argue that jsut because dogs are not like humans they are not self aware.I wasn't. But I do think that in some cases you can: Humans are self aware, so behavior typical of humans can in some cases be a symptom of self awareness. So if dogs don't have those properties, then that could be taken as a sign of not having self awareness. I think a discussion about when this applies would be off topic to our current discussion.

I am not trying to argue that dogs or any other animals should be treated differently than they are. Self awareness is not a morality issue.Yes it is. If an individual is aware of its existence and does not wish for it to end, what right do you have to take that life away. Why is that individuals life worth less than any others?

Either it is boolean or works on a gradient scale. I don't think it can be both.
Agreed.

Nothing special? The natural laws seem pretty awesome to me. Awesome maybe. But being special means being rare, which cannot apply to the laws of nature, since we have nothing objective to compare them against. It is therefore not useful to make categories that encompass everything that exists, especially if the term already has a specific and useful meaning.

Given that chemistry and the other laws of nature pretty much define everything in our world, why shouldn't they also define self awareness? On a gradient scale it makes perfect sense.
Because self awareness is already defined in terms of thought, and we don't know enough biochemistry to understand the process of thought. Maybe when we do learn how the brain works, we can create a definition of awareness based on the development of specific brain structures. This would be like life which once ment something that grows, now means something that can reproduce by its own mechanism.

warpus
Feb 04, 2009, 10:49 PM
Listen, if a cell was self-aware, it would be possible to communicate with it and ask it what its favourite colour is, or something.

You really think that'd be conceptually possible, BirdJaguar?

Birdjaguar
Feb 05, 2009, 12:02 AM
It is late for me; I will reply tomorrow. But I will leave you both with a question. Are elephants, dolphins, apes and magpies our equal in terms of awareness?

Birdjaguar
Feb 05, 2009, 11:55 PM
Consiousness is an example of such a foundation. The capacity for pain is another. So is the capacity for judgment. Admittedly, all of these have been arived by working backwards from the assumption that humans are better, but if the data fits the conjecture, then conjecture becomes justified.Where you begin (your base assumptions) will determine where you end up. So if you begin with an assumption that humans are better than or separate from all other life, then, as you have done, you will only see the world through those glasses. I do not believe though that there is any actual scientific evidence that your assumption is actually true. We all have to start somewhere and those basic assumptions (yours and mine) are pretty much unproven. If by "judgment" you mean the capacity to make choices, then most higher life forms have it. If by judgment you mean on moral judgment, then I suspect that you would limit it to those that are self aware: humans, apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies. ;)

How can somebody be partially aware? Awareness is a Boolean condition by definition. If its boolean, then humans, apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies are all equally self aware or the whole mirror test thing a "stupid pet trick". If its boolean and only humans are self aware, then elephants and sheep would have to be equally unaware, which they clearly aren't. Now one way to deal with this problem is to make sure that the definition of self aware only fits humans (the tool making mammal ;) )
and add something like the "capacity for moral judgments". I think though that both apes and elephants may have crossed that line already.


Yes it is. If an individual is aware of its existence and does not wish for it to end, what right do you have to take that life away. Why is that individuals life worth less than any others?So when an animal chews off its foot that is caught in a trap so that it can live, it would seem to be showing that it does not want to die. Or is chewing off your foot just an instinctual behavior?


Because self awareness is already defined in terms of thought, and we don't know enough biochemistry to understand the process of thought. Maybe when we do learn how the brain works, we can create a definition of awareness based on the development of specific brain structures. This would be like life which once ment something that grows, now means something that can reproduce by its own mechanism.
So you accept that I could be proven right as soon as science catches up with my thinking. :mischief:

Birdjaguar
Feb 06, 2009, 12:05 AM
Listen, if a cell was self-aware, it would be possible to communicate with it and ask it what its favourite colour is, or something.

You really think that'd be conceptually possible, BirdJaguar?If awareness in on a continuum it most certainly is. right now to communicate with a cell we have to reduce our communications to chemical level where we have found them to be responsive.

Cells may not have a favorite color, but many seem to have chemical preferences. In fact humans still communicate at the chemical level as well. Our improved awareness just gives us a greater choice of communication devices and a broader vocabulary.

What kind of self awareness would we have without chemistry? Is there any other fundamental basis for awareness than chemistry?

warpus
Feb 06, 2009, 12:39 PM
BirdJaguar, the way we experience the world is dozens (hundreds?) levels of abstraction removed from the way a cell does.

Cells do not have 'preferences'. A cell doesn't investigate its surroundings and think "Hmmm today I'm going to go.. east". Its interaction with its environment is several magnitudes more simplistic than what we know as instinct. There is no self-awareness involved.

Souron
Feb 06, 2009, 01:43 PM
Where you begin (your base assumptions) will determine where you end up. So if you begin with an assumption that humans are better than or separate from all other life, then, as you have done, you will only see the world through those glasses. I do not believe though that there is any actual scientific evidence that your assumption is actually true. We all have to start somewhere and those basic assumptions (yours and mine) are pretty much unproven. If by "judgment" you mean the capacity to make choices, then most higher life forms have it. If by judgment you mean on moral judgment, then I suspect that you would limit it to those that are self aware: humans, apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies. ;)If you wish to argue that a wider selection of animals have the properties that are generally used to excuse a divide between animals an humans, I have no objection. But again this discussion can only be had if you use terms like self awareness in the same way as everyone else.

If its boolean, then humans, apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies are all equally self aware or the whole mirror test thing a "stupid pet trick". If its boolean and only humans are self aware, then elephants and sheep would have to be equally unaware, which they clearly aren't. Now one way to deal with this problem is to make sure that the definition of self aware only fits humans (the tool making mammal ;) )
and add something like the "capacity for moral judgments". I think though that both apes and elephants may have crossed that line already.You aren't arguing why it is Boolean, you are arguing that it would be convenient if it weren't, because then we can say that all animals are "not sufficiently self aware" without defining an awareness limit beyond defining humans as above that limit. You accuse me of wanting define self awareness as something that applies only to humans, but it is you who is making such a definition.

I agree with your statement:
If its boolean, then humans, apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies are all equally self aware or the whole mirror test thing a "stupid pet trick".
Self awareness is boolean. There are other criteria, such as the capacity for moral judgement that may or may serve as a better boundry. These criteria need to also be boolean to be useful. But ultimately if the boundary is found to include certain other members of the animal kingdom, then those members must be given all inalienable human rights, to the greatest extent possible.

This has the convenient benefit of preventing the possibility of the planet being overrun by talking apes who brake free of their enslavement. ;)

Yet even if we accept your conjecture that self awareness is gradient, there is no reason to extend that gradient to individual cells.


So when an animal chews off its foot that is caught in a trap so that it can live, it would seem to be showing that it does not want to die. Or is chewing off your foot just an instinctual behavior?The fear of an avoidance of death is a primal instinct. The realization of what death actually means is self awareness. Only humans and elephants seem to associate any special meaning to death, as indicated by ceremonies both have surrounding it.

So you accept that I could be proven right as soon as science catches up with my thinking. :mischief:I agree on which point? certainly not on the awareness of cells. As an atheist, I am inclined to agree that self awareness must be the product of known natural laws.

Fifty
Feb 07, 2009, 08:59 AM
Another option might be that "consciousness" is somehow programmed to "see" or "experience" an arrow of time that does not exist out side of it.

Another option might be that "you" are completely "crazy" and your "theories" are "incoherent new-age clap-trap".
Trolling - warned.

warpus
Feb 07, 2009, 09:59 AM
That "cracked" me "up"

Birdjaguar
Feb 07, 2009, 10:39 PM
If you wish to argue that a wider selection of animals have the properties that are generally used to excuse a divide between animals an humans, I have no objection. But again this discussion can only be had if you use terms like self awareness in the same way as everyone else.Ok, let's put everything else aside for the moment and assume that the mirror test is valid as a measure of self awareness. If so, do you accept that those animals that have passed it are as self aware as humans?

If not, why not?

Souron
Feb 08, 2009, 08:40 PM
Ok, let's put everything else aside for the moment and assume that the mirror test is valid as a measure of self awareness. If so, do you accept that those animals that have passed it are as self aware as humans?

If not, why not?Of course. Self awareness is a boolean trait. Therefore all self aware things are equally self aware.

Now it may still not be the case that self awareness is the boundary at which we grant human rights.

Birdjaguar
Feb 08, 2009, 10:12 PM
Awareness has a specific definition: the ability to recognize self from non self. Atoms, molecules, cells, they cannot do this. Humans can.

As an atheist, I am inclined to agree that self awareness must be the product of known natural laws.

Of course. Self awareness is a boolean trait. Therefore all self aware things are equally self aware.

Now it may still not be the case that self awareness is the boundary at which we grant human rights.

If self awareness is a "fixed state" as you say (critters either are or aren't), can we assume that it exists independent of human recognition and things like the mirror test are just ways that we use to discover where it resides?

Or is it just a useful human construct that we use to classify things?

Souron
Feb 08, 2009, 10:32 PM
If self awareness is a "fixed state" as you say (critters either are or aren't), can we assume that it exists independent of human recognition and things like the mirror test are just ways that we use to discover where it resides?

Or is it just a useful human construct that we use to classify things?
I'm inclined to say the former, because the first statement is true, but I do not understand what you mean by "just a useful human construct".

Birdjaguar
Feb 09, 2009, 12:29 AM
I'm inclined to say the former, because the first statement is true, but I do not understand what you mean by "just a useful human construct".I assumed you would feel that way and I agree with you, but wanted to check and make sure.

Now we have an established definition of self awareness:the ability to recognize self from non self, and that the mirror test is an acceptable way to test for it and you have said that either a critter has it or does not independent of any human recognition of it.

The wiki article below strongly implies (without citation) that passing the mirror test comes through learning.

At first, even animals that are capable of passing the mirror test respond as the orangutan described by Darwin. In fact, young children and people who have been blind from birth but have their sight restored initially react as if their reflection in the mirror was another person. All animals that are capable of passing the mirror test learn to do so from experience.

So the elephant learned to demonstrate its self awareness to us by spending time in front of mirror. Human babies fail the mirror test until sometime between 18-24 months. Does the baby become self aware in those months and is therefore able to pass the mirror test, or does it merely learn to demonstrate that already existing awareness in those months?

Depending on how you answer that question, given your frequent mention of moral issues, a follow up question might be: "If a person of any age repeatedly fails to pass the mirror test, are they still considered self aware? I'm thinking of those who are mentally or perhaps those with Alzheimers. It's not really on point, and I don't care if you answer it or not.

"...just a useful human construct."
Humans make up ways of classifying and organizing things to help us live in a complex and sometimes chaotic world. There are times when those groupings are convenient and not necessarily based on anything substantial. Both Science and religion are among the tools we use to organize the world and make sense of things.

Souron
Feb 09, 2009, 11:02 AM
Now we have an established definition of self awareness:the ability to recognize self from non self, and that the mirror test is an acceptable way to test for it and you have said that either a critter has it or does not independent of any human recognition of it. I actually like the wording of the definition you gave in post 29 better: "a sense of separateness from one's surroundings." But there is no real difference between the two definitions.


The wiki article below strongly implies (without citation) that passing the mirror test comes through learning.

So the elephant learned to demonstrate its self awareness to us by spending time in front of mirror. Human babies fail the mirror test until sometime between 18-24 months. Does the baby become self aware in those months and is therefore able to pass the mirror test, or does it merely learn to demonstrate that already existing awareness in those months?I don't know the answer to this question. Many people would probably claim that babies are in fact self aware at birth. But without proof this cannot be taken as fact. It is known that a babies brain develops significantly during this time, so it is possible in my book that consciousness is acquired after birth. Certainly long term memory isn't acquired until age 5, perhaps awareness is similar.

However, going on gut I would speculate that babies are fully aware at birth.
Depending on how you answer that question, given your frequent mention of moral issues, a follow up question might be: "If a person of any age repeatedly fails to pass the mirror test, are they still considered self aware? I'm thinking of those who are mentally or perhaps those with Alzheimers. It's not really on point, and I don't care if you answer it or not.The mirror test is a test for self awareness, but is not part of the definition. The test can have false positives and false negatives. It is possible to be self aware and repeatedly fail the mirror test, or even to pass the test without having consciousness. All people are probably conscious given we have the same internals. Therefore a person that repeatedly fails the mirror test may still be considered to be aware purely on the basis of being human.

"...just a useful human construct."
Humans make up ways of classifying and organizing things to help us live in a complex and sometimes chaotic world. There are times when those groupings are convenient and not necessarily based on anything substantial. Both Science and religion are among the tools we use to organize the world and make sense of things.This is true, but though the categories are arbitrary they often do reflect boundaries that don't need humans to exist. For example a species is a human construct that arbitrarily segregates life on the basis of who can reproduce with whom. Nevertheless, this boundary exists independent of humans. Can you give an example of an arbitrary construct that is not based on anything substantial?

Birdjaguar
Feb 09, 2009, 09:15 PM
the ability to recognize self from non self
I actually like the wording of the definition you gave in post 29 better: "a sense of separateness from one's surroundings." But there is no real difference between the two definitions.I like mine better too, but both suffer from the ambiguity of "recognize" and "sense".

So the elephant learned to demonstrate its self awareness to us by spending time in front of mirror. Human babies fail the mirror test until sometime between 18-24 months. Does the baby become self aware in those months and is therefore able to pass the mirror test, or does it merely learn to demonstrate that already existing awareness in those months?
I don't know the answer to this question. Many people would probably claim that babies are in fact self aware at birth. But without proof this cannot be taken as fact. It is known that a babies brain develops significantly during this time, so it is possible in my book that consciousness is acquired after birth. Certainly long term memory isn't acquired until age 5, perhaps awareness is similar.

However, going on gut I would speculate that babies are fully aware at birth.
I do not think we know the answer to that question yet, but each provides interesting scenarios. If a baby develops self awareness between 18 and 24 months because of brain development or some other reason, then there is a case for a gradient of self awareness that tracks that development. And that development could begin with birth and interaction with objects other than itself and end at the mirror test stage or perhaps even at age 10, or 12, or 33, or 55, or later. If self awreness develops over time, then at the person level it cannot be boolean. I think that such a thing would weaken the argument for boolean characteristics at the species level too.

Now, perhaps our baby is self aware from birth and just masters communicating that fact between 18-24 months. Since births are pretty variable nowadays and some babies come very early, birth is a lousy marker for noting the precense of self awareness. If we go earlier, then we need a point to mark the appearance of self awareness. With one exception any point you choose leads you to the development problem I raised above. The unborn child is growing and changing everyday building the various apparatus that will sustain its life and mind.

Could self awareness begin at...
Week 10 when 250,000 new neurons are made every minute?
Week 6 when the neural tube closes?
Week 5 when the heart starts to beat?
Week 4 when the brain, spinal cord, and heart begin to form? The baby is only 1/25 of an inch long.

Or perhaps the best choice: at fertilization. That eliminates the development problem and leaves us with questions like, "When does self awareness become useful to us?"

Now I realize that this re-raises the previous problem of individual cells having self awareness and Warpus' concern that such a thing is not possible. :)

I've got to go for now, but will address the rest of your post later.

Birdjaguar
Feb 10, 2009, 12:15 AM
This is true, but though the categories are arbitrary they often do reflect boundaries that don't need humans to exist. For example a species is a human construct that arbitrarily segregates life on the basis of who can reproduce with whom. Nevertheless, this boundary exists independent of humans. Can you give an example of an arbitrary construct that is not based on anything substantial?Supernatural explanations for things. Astrology. Small superstitions that people hold. Many cultural ideas like religious and racial superiority, and national destiny. Sports team loyalty. Everyone organizes the world in very personal ways so that our lives make sense and we get closer to feeling satisfied with it. We create low level hierarchies and boxes and preferences based on the higher level tools we choose to use. Some use science as a tool of the first order; others religion; still others, group affiliation. And then we mix them all up too. So you have people who believe in science, god and the Steelers and depending upon the day of the week and season of the year different sides of their world come to the fore. How many science believers wore lucky shirts for the Super Bowl?

Souron
Feb 10, 2009, 07:36 AM
I like mine better too, but both suffer from the ambiguity of "recognize" and "sense".It's not an ambiguity. We can both understand what we mean when we use these terms. The trouble is that there is no direct way to measure if a creature has this kind of perception.

I do not think we know the answer to that question yet, but each provides interesting scenarios. If a baby develops self awareness between 18 and 24 months because of brain development or some other reason, then there is a case for a gradient of self awareness that tracks that development. And that development could begin with birth and interaction with objects other than itself and end at the mirror test stage or perhaps even at age 10, or 12, or 33, or 55, or later. If self awreness develops over time, then at the person level it cannot be boolean. I think that such a thing would weaken the argument for boolean characteristics at the species level too.You make a good point, but the possibility that consciousness is spontaneously acquired cannot be totally ignored.

Now, perhaps our baby is self aware from birth and just masters communicating that fact between 18-24 months. Since births are pretty variable nowadays and some babies come very early, birth is a lousy marker for noting the precense of self awareness. If we go earlier, then we need a point to mark the appearance of self awareness. With one exception any point you choose leads you to the development problem I raised above. The unborn child is growing and changing everyday building the various apparatus that will sustain its life and mind.

Could self awareness begin at...
Week 10 when 250,000 new neurons are made every minute?
Week 6 when the neural tube closes?
Week 5 when the heart starts to beat?
Week 4 when the brain, spinal cord, and heart begin to form? The baby is only 1/25 of an inch long.

Or perhaps the best choice: at fertilization. That eliminates the development problem and leaves us with questions like, "When does self awareness become useful to us?"

Now I realize that this re-raises the previous problem of individual cells having self awareness and Warpus' concern that such a thing is not possible. :)These critical points in human embryonic development have nothing to do with self awareness. You could guess that a large brain is required for consciousness, and therefore claim that if a embryo's brain is large enough, it should be considered potentially consciousness, possibly implying a right to life. Certainly having no brain precludes consciousness. That is the only boundary that really makes sense.

Also it is possible that an embryo does not think in the womb, in which case we can ignore the question of whether it could be self awareness at that stage of development, since the embryo remains in an unconscious state.

Birdjaguar
Feb 10, 2009, 09:18 PM
It's not an ambiguity. We can both understand what we mean when we use these terms. The trouble is that there is no direct way to measure if a creature has this kind of perception.I don't know. If the interjection of something new into a static environment changes the behavior of a creature, couldn't that measure recognition or

You make a good point, but the possibility that consciousness is spontaneously acquired cannot be totally ignored.While it can't be ignored completely, is spontaneous change something that we see in nature above the celluar or molecular level? And "spontaneous" may be the wrong word for it. That would imply that self awareness could appear anytime and any place without warning. "Instantaneous" might be better. Now wouldn't this require a threshold be reached like a minimum number of neurons or an amount of electricl charge or something?

These critical points in human embryonic development have nothing to do with self awareness. You could guess that a large brain is required for consciousness, and therefore claim that if a embryo's brain is large enough, it should be considered potentially consciousness, possibly implying a right to life. Certainly having no brain precludes consciousness. That is the only boundary that really makes sense.Ok so a brain is required for consciousness or self awareness. How much of a brain? Our brain has several significant parts all the way from the spinal cord to the pre frontal lobes. Are all those necessary?

At 10 weeks an embryo becomes a fetus and is the size of a small strawberry. Its brain is about half that size. Is that large enough?


Also it is possible that an embryo does not think in the womb, in which case we can ignore the question of whether it could be self awareness at that stage of development, since the embryo remains in an unconscious state.And so our definition grows:

--a large brain
--thinking
--consciousness
--a sense of separateness from one's surroundings

Is "thinking" electrical activity or exactly what?
And what do you mean by "conscious"? Able to respond to something outside it? Awake? Or is it just a synomym for self aware at the moment?

Are your "new" requirements of a large brain, consciousness and thinking, in order to be self aware actually based on some science or is it just part of the commonly accepted definition?

It appears that under those rules birth may be the boundary you require and upon that event humans become self aware. That seems very tenuous to me.

Lots of creatures have large brains, think and are conscious. According to you they lack the "sense of separateness from their surroundings." Now if self awareness is learned, could we teach (and maybe we already have) self awareness to creatures who almost "get it"?

I am sorry if this is a bit rambling.
.

Souron
Feb 10, 2009, 10:34 PM
I don't know. If the interjection of something new into a static environment changes the behavior of a creature, couldn't that measure recognition or That would make anything that can be blown up by a bomb have the ability to recognize stuff. [pissed]

Minimally recognition requires thought.
While it can't be ignored completely, is spontaneous change something that we see in nature above the celluar or molecular level? And "spontaneous" may be the wrong word for it. That would imply that self awareness could appear anytime and any place without warning. "Instantaneous" might be better. Now wouldn't this require a threshold be reached like a minimum number of neurons or an amount of electricl charge or something?Yeah, it would be a threshold of some sort.

Ok so a brain is required for consciousness or self awareness. How much of a brain? Our brain has several significant parts all the way from the spinal cord to the pre frontal lobes. Are all those necessary?

At 10 weeks an embryo becomes a fetus and is the size of a small strawberry. Its brain is about half that size. Is that large enough?We currently have a way of knowing when exactly consciousness becomes possible.

Regarding Large Brain: Here the definition isn't growing. A large brain is just a criteria by which we can speculate that consciousness is present. Basically we are saying that if something is physically similar to the conscious apparatus of an adult human, then it might be conscious. This is a much less direct test than the mirror test, so it is much more fallible. But it spares us the trouble of preforming the mirror test on animals with small brains, for example.

Regarding Thinking:Thinking is part of self awareness only in so far as it is part of recognition or the ability to "sense". Trying to find a physical definition of thinking is not useful for our purposes, because it is only loosely related. It would be useful to have a physical definition of recognition, but we don't have this.

And what do youself awareness is not learned, passing the mirror test is. So you can't teach self awareness. mean by "conscious"? Able to respond to something outside it? Awake? Or is it just a synonym for self aware at the moment?I said "unconscious", by which I meant not awake. I also meant to imply not dreaming. I think we can agree that a sleeping, non dreaming human is still self aware when awake, but doesn't qualify as aware in that state.

It appears that under those rules birth may be the boundary you require and upon that event humans become self aware. That seems very tenuous to me.If we assume that an embryo is not unconscious, and that babies are self aware, then yes birth is the boundary. The boundary is tenuous in that these assumptions are not fully supported. But since they are the generally considered true, birth is the defacto boundary.

Lots of creatures have large brains, think and are conscious. According to you they lack the "sense of separateness from their surroundings." Now if self awareness is learned, could we teach (and maybe we already have) self awareness to creatures who almost "get it"?Self awareness is not learned, passing the mirror test is; a conscious being may take several tries to figure out what a mirror does. So you can't teach self awareness.

I am sorry if this is a bit rambling.
.You are rambling, but you are also understanding. I think you can see why calling cells conscious is so far left field in my eyes.

Birdjaguar
Feb 11, 2009, 12:02 AM
You are rambling, but you are also understanding. I think you can see why calling cells conscious is so far left field in my eyes.Yes I do see your plight. The box you are trapped in is a terrible place. Here take the keys....:mischief:

I will get back to the rest tomorrow when I am less distrcted by other things. :)

Souron
Feb 11, 2009, 06:05 PM
Yes I do see your plight. The box you are trapped in is a terrible place. Here take the keys....:mischief:And step out into the fuzzy abyss that you live in? I think I prefer my solid ground and well defined edges, thank you. ;)

warpus
Feb 12, 2009, 06:08 PM
Could self awareness begin at...
Week 10 when 250,000 new neurons are made every minute?
Week 6 when the neural tube closes?
Week 5 when the heart starts to beat?
Week 4 when the brain, spinal cord, and heart begin to form? The baby is only 1/25 of an inch long.

Or perhaps the best choice: at fertilization. That eliminates the development problem and leaves us with questions like, "When does self awareness become useful to us?"

Now I realize that this re-raises the previous problem of individual cells having self awareness and Warpus' concern that such a thing is not possible.
.

Or perhaps this sort of thing is different for everyone, and the brain must develop sufficiently in order for the "self-awareness threshhold" to be breached?

I really don't think there's a magic line there that applies to everyone.

It's kind of like statistics. If you roll 2 dice often enough, you'll eventually get 2 sixes, but even though there is no magical line defining the number of rolls you'll need in order to get 2 sixes, there nevertheless exists a threshold of sorts that can be evaluated using simple laws of statistics and probability (ie. you can figure out how many rolls you can expect to have to make to reach your goal of 2 sixes, but this is only a guideline)

I don't think we have the technology yet to figure out this "guideline", nor do I think it's as simple as saying "you need 3188632868 cells". It will vary from person to person and is dependent on complicated neural processes.

Birdjaguar
Feb 12, 2009, 09:43 PM
That would make anything that can be blown up by a bomb have the ability to recognize stuff.Loose language on my part, sorry. What I was getting at was something like this: A dog in in a room and hears the sound of a familiar car engine pulling up to the house. He gets up and goes to the door wagging his tail in anticiaption of someone arriving there shortly. The car sound enters the dog's environment and he recognizes it as something other than himself (a car with a person in it) and changes what he is doing in response. How is that not recognition of the dogs separateness from what is around him?

Minimally recognition requires thought.
Yeah, it would be a threshold of some sort.

We currently have a way of knowing when exactly consciousness becomes possible. And when is that?

Regarding Large Brain: Here the definition isn't growing. A large brain is just a criteria by which we can speculate that consciousness is present. Basically we are saying that if something is physically similar to the conscious apparatus of an adult human, then it might be conscious. This is a much less direct test than the mirror test, so it is much more fallible. But it spares us the trouble of preforming the mirror test on animals with small brains, for example.So there is no need to test magpies for self awarenees because their brains are too small? How about African grey parrots?

Regarding Thinking:Thinking is part of self awareness only in so far as it is part of recognition or the ability to "sense". Trying to find a physical definition of thinking is not useful for our purposes, because it is only loosely related. It would be useful to have a physical definition of recognition, but we don't have this.By "physical definition" do you mean the electro chemical properties that occur when something is recognized? We certainly don't have such a thing for "self aware" and yet you have a definition you seem to cling tightly to.

I said "unconscious", by which I meant not awake. I also meant to imply not dreaming. I think we can agree that a sleeping, non dreaming human is still self aware when awake, but doesn't qualify as aware in that state.But a sleeping, non dreaming human will respond to changes in its environment. Turn on a light, make a noise stick it with a pin and it may awake. Even in that state a person recognizes intrusions from outside itself and responds.

If we assume that an embryo is not unconscious, and that babies are self aware, then yes birth is the boundary. The boundary is tenuous in that these assumptions are not fully supported. But since they are the generally considered true, birth is the defacto boundary."Generally consider true" is not much of a defense. If you ask the same question in India where most of the people are Hindu, you will probably get a very different answer. As of this week a gallup poll says only 39% of Americans believe in evolution. It is "generally not considered true". Should we accept that as fact?

Birth is a "convenient" boundary and nothing more. Using it is not too different than saying "To be self aware you need to be human." It is a hard line that is easy to understand.

Birdjaguar
Feb 12, 2009, 09:51 PM
Or perhaps this sort of thing is different for everyone, and the brain must develop sufficiently in order for the "self-awareness threshhold" to be breached?

I really don't think there's a magic line there that applies to everyone.

It's kind of like statistics. If you roll 2 dice often enough, you'll eventually get 2 sixes, but even though there is no magical line defining the number of rolls you'll need in order to get 2 sixes, there nevertheless exists a threshold of sorts that can be evaluated using simple laws of statistics and probability (ie. you can figure out how many rolls you can expect to have to make to reach your goal of 2 sixes, but this is only a guideline)

I don't think we have the technology yet to figure out this "guideline", nor do I think it's as simple as saying "you need 3188632868 cells". It will vary from person to person and is dependent on complicated neural processes.
I don't disagree. But if self awareness as you define it "comes on" at some point, even if at different points for different people, my question is: is it a zero to 100% change at some instant, or does it build slowly and at some instant we recogize it as being 100%.

In the first case it is on or off like a light. In the second, the bulb slowly begins to glow and, at some point, we can see the light and say "look there's a light" even though it has been glowing for some time below our ability to recognize it.

Souron
Feb 14, 2009, 08:47 PM
Loose language on my part, sorry. What I was getting at was something like this: A dog in in a room and hears the sound of a familiar car engine pulling up to the house. He gets up and goes to the door wagging his tail in anticiaption of someone arriving there shortly. The car sound enters the dog's environment and he recognizes it as something other than himself (a car with a person in it) and changes what he is doing in response. How is that not recognition of the dogs separateness from what is around him?
But a sleeping, non dreaming human will respond to changes in its environment. Turn on a light, make a noise stick it with a pin and it may awake. Even in that state a person recognizes intrusions from outside itself and responds.The ability to respond to external stimuli, or to develop an association between a sound and and event is not sufficient for free will.

Self awareness is not so much about recognizing stimuli as recognizing oneself.

Here's an alternate, equivalent definition of Self awareness for you: "having a concept of self". This is just a rewording of the other two definitions we have.

The rest of the discussion seems to have side tracked. I will respond to it, but it isn't directly related to what we are disagreeing on, unless you can tie it together to make a point.
And when is that?Dunno.

So there is no need to test magpies for self awarenees because their brains are too small? How about African grey parrots?I'm not a biologist. I don't know anything about brain sizes and their exact relation to cognitive ability. I'm just saying that there is a development boundary at which we shouldn't bother testing for consciousness.

By "physical definition" do you mean the electro chemical properties that occur when something is recognized? We certainly don't have such a thing for "self aware" and yet you have a definition you seem to cling tightly to. That's correct.

"Generally consider true" is not much of a defense. If you ask the same question in India where most of the people are Hindu, you will probably get a very different answer. As of this week a gallup poll says only 39% of Americans believe in evolution. It is "generally not considered true". Should we accept that as fact?Your right. I am not trying to make an argument out of when a baby becomes conscious.

Birth is a "convenient" boundary and nothing more. Using it is not too different than saying "To be self aware you need to be human." It is a hard line that is easy to understand.I have already presented reasons why birth may be a good non-arbitrairy line. Not proof, but reasons.
Humanity is not a hard line either. The definition of humanity become rather arbitrary when you compare us to our evolutionary ancestors.

Birdjaguar
Feb 18, 2009, 12:04 AM
The ability to respond to external stimuli, or to develop an association between a sound and and event is not sufficient for free will.

Free will is not so much about recognizing stimuli as recognizing oneself.

Here's an alternate, equivalent definition of free will for you: "having a concept of self". This is just a rewording of the other two definitions we have. It appars to me that you are just circling your wagons around a more and more complicated definition of sef awareness. first it was " a sense of separation" and now we have thinking, free will, big brains etc. very little of which appears to be supported by anything other than the definition you choose toi employ.

I can accept that self awareness may be requirement for free will (and that topic is a very slippery slope), but I see no reason that free will need be a requirement for self awareness.

You seem to have ruled out the mirror test as a test for self wareness. Is that the case or do you accept it as a valid test for self awareness?


I'm not a biologist. I don't know anything about brain sizes and their exact relation to cognitive ability. I'm just saying that there is a development boundary at which we shouldn't bother testing for consciousness.
Well bird brains are quite small and very different than large mammal brains. If you accept the mirror test then at a minimum that boundary is no higher than birds.

Ziggy Stardust
Feb 18, 2009, 04:44 AM
Could self awareness begin at...
Week 10 when 250,000 new neurons are made every minute?
Week 6 when the neural tube closes?
Week 5 when the heart starts to beat?
Week 4 when the brain, spinal cord, and heart begin to form? The baby is only 1/25 of an inch long.

Or perhaps the best choice: at fertilization. That eliminates the development problem and leaves us with questions like, "When does self awareness become useful to us?"When the foetus has developed a cerebral cortex.

How many neurons fire is totally irrelevant. When the brain develops, heart starts to beat as well. What happens to those signals is. Without a cerebral cortex they're just electric pulses without meaning. It's the grey matter that's needed to make sense of them.

This happens in the 22nd week, or the fifth month. Now I do agree that a significant margin of error needs to be introduced, like 2 or 3 weeks, to err on the side of caution.

How do we determine when a person has deceased? By the very same principle.

SS-18 ICBM
Feb 18, 2009, 05:13 PM
What is this thread about, again?

Birdjaguar
Feb 18, 2009, 10:43 PM
What is this thread about, again?We got sidetracked about here:

http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=7504946&postcount=28

Since then it has been a rather slow paced chat about selfwareness.

Birdjaguar
Feb 18, 2009, 10:51 PM
When the foetus has developed a cerebral cortex.

How many neurons fire is totally irrelevant. When the brain develops, heart starts to beat as well. What happens to those signals is. Without a cerebral cortex they're just electric pulses without meaning. It's the grey matter that's needed to make sense of them.

This happens in the 22nd week, or the fifth month. Now I do agree that a significant margin of error needs to be introduced, like 2 or 3 weeks, to err on the side of caution.

How do we determine when a person has deceased? By the very same principle.Thanks. So are you saying that life may begin at conception, but consciousness is attained between 20 and 25 weeks?

If so, does that newly formed consciousness turn on like a light (suddenly and all at once) or slowly over a series of weeks?

What would you say are the signs at the point at which consciousness is apparent?

Ziggy Stardust
Feb 19, 2009, 05:31 AM
Thanks. So are you saying that life may begin at conception, but consciousness is attained between 20 and 25 weeks?Not is attained, but starts.

If so, does that newly formed consciousness turn on like a light (suddenly and all at once) or slowly over a series of weeks?

What would you say are the signs at the point at which consciousness is apparent?It's not like the beginning development of the cerebral cortex will make a person self aware and conscious from the beginning. I believe it slowly develops itself throughout the 6th month and continues growing the rest of the pregnancy.

Since you need a cerebral cortex to be present for consciousness and we do not quite understand yet at what point the cerebral cortex is developed enough to reach consciousness I advocate we are cautious about it and don't abort babies from week 20. Or rather it would be best if first is made sure the foetus does not have one. I don't know how easy it is to detect it.

Birdjaguar
Feb 19, 2009, 09:28 PM
Not is attained, but starts.

It's not like the beginning development of the cerebral cortex will make a person self aware and conscious from the beginning. I believe it slowly develops itself throughout the 6th month and continues growing the rest of the pregnancy.

Since you need a cerebral cortex to be present for consciousness and we do not quite understand yet at what point the cerebral cortex is developed enough to reach consciousness I advocate we are cautious about it and don't abort babies from week 20. Or rather it would be best if first is made sure the foetus does not have one. I don't know how easy it is to detect it.One thing Sauron and I disagree on is whether or not consciousnes/self awareness is an on off affair or whether it is on a gradient scale and one becomes more and more self awareduring whatever development process is at work. Do you have an opinion?

Do you accpet the mirror test as a measure of self awreness? Most human babies fail it until 18-20 months after birth.

Ziggy Stardust
Feb 20, 2009, 02:46 AM
I don't think the mirror test is a tight scientific way to measure self awareness in my opinion. But I'm using self-aware and consciousness quite wrongly in that post I made. Self awareness isn't what I'd base the choice on. I'd base it on consciousness. Many animals for instance aren't self aware and it's not justifiable to treat them however you like.

edit: My opinion is that it isn't an on/off affair. That seems counter-intuitive to me. But I'm not too well known with the development of self awareness or consciousness. I just know which tool you require for both. :)

Birdjaguar
Feb 20, 2009, 07:15 PM
I don't think the mirror test is a tight scientific way to measure self awareness in my opinion. What would be better?


But I'm using self-aware and consciousness quite wrongly in that post I made. Self awareness isn't what I'd base the choice on. I'd base it on consciousness. Many animals for instance aren't self aware and it's not justifiable to treat them however you like.Please explain the bolded part. Sauron disagrees with you about animals: no self awareness = no restrictions on how one treat animals. I think they are all self aware and there shuld be some restrictions on how we treat some of them.

edit: My opinion is that it isn't an on/off affair. That seems counter-intuitive to me. But I'm not too well known with the development of self awareness or consciousness. I just know which tool you require for both. :)I agree that it is gradient, but see the continuum stretching at least from the cell level up through human consciousness.

warpus
Feb 21, 2009, 07:55 AM
BirdJaguar
I'm not sure whether self-awareness is an on/off thing or more of a gradient-like phenomenon, but either way, I don't think it really affects whether cells can be self-aware or not.

Birdjaguar
Feb 21, 2009, 10:21 PM
BirdJaguar
I'm not sure whether self-awareness is an on/off thing or more of a gradient-like phenomenon, but either way, I don't think it really affects whether cells can be self-aware or not.
As I think about the discussion we’ve had over the past few weeks several things seem to have emerged. One is the notion of consciousness/self awareness (for simplicity I’ll use the terms interchangeably) as a fixed state that “turns on” at some point in a creature’s life. For people that point has been linked to brain development that could take place as early as 20 weeks in utero or as late as 24 months after birth. Mostly this position has been talked about only in regards to humans, and we have not settled on what is the best point to declare a person self aware.

The mirror test adds another dimension to the picture. What if other creatures are self aware? If you accept the mirror test as a valid measure of self awareness, then apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies are as self aware as humans. Clearly, they do not have the same cognitive skill set humans have, but according to the test they have consciousness. Is consciousness dependent upon a wider skill set or only whether or not a creature has a sense of separation from its surroundings?

This opens the door to the possibility that consciousness may be an on/off state at the individual level, but gradient at the species level. Apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies may be self aware, but it is not in the same way that people are self aware. They may be self aware, but without all the bells and whistles humans have. But if there are two states of consciousness (one for humans and one for non humans) then it makes perfect sense to suggest that the second state held by a select group of non human critters may actually be several different states. Elephant awareness is not exactly like dolphin awareness which is different from magpie awareness etc. Very quickly consciousness becomes a sliding scale of points with humans at one end. Sauron has raised the question that perhaps consciousness must also be accompanied by free will or additional factors beyond what we can measure now. Conveniently, this serves to add to the “human only” positioning of consciousness and self awareness.

One way to avoid the gradient solution is to deny that the mirror test actually measures self awareness and say that it measures something lesser that does not reflect the complexity of human awareness and capability. To me that smacks of little more than hiding behind a definition designed to make sure that the gap between humans and the rest of living things is kept wide and unbreached. As I have said before, science is breaking down the walls between humanity and the rest of creation and it creates complications in real life and how we think about the world. As stated above, when consciousness take shape in fetal development can affect people’s thinking about abortion. Whether or not animals have consciousness can affect people’s thinking about how we treat those animals.”Humans, the tool-making animal” fell by the wayside several decades ago. In the absence of that, it is easy to erect a new barrier at “consciousness” and then define it such that the definition excludes all other life forms, even if the science doesn’t support such a view.

Limiting self awareness forces one to define those limits and I don’t think I‘ve seen convincing limits that are supported by anything other than a “by definition” defense.

It does not appear that anyone here supports my position that self awareness exists at the cellular level, which I pretty much expected. But my thoughts are tied to the idea of consciousness operating on a gradient scale, both at the individual level and the species level. Individual self awareness begins at conception as the fertilized egg shuts itself off from all other encroaching sperm and that self awareness makes incremental progress throughout gestation until birth. At birth a whole new sensory apparatus comes into play further expanding the baby’s awareness of its place in relation to other things and other people. Between 18-20 months the brain is sufficiently developed to allow for the ability to communicate its sense of separateness. Then over the next 20-25 years further development of the brain refines that consciousness into what we think of as fully adult. In making such a claim, I recognize that I am breaking with the generally accepted definition of self aware and including things that traditionally are excluded from it: instinctual responses and chemical responses. You might oppose including them, just like I would oppose including free will as a necessary component of self awareness.

Now, the mirror test has shown us that there is a wide potential of animals that could pass that test and that a better test may be needed if we want to include still more species in the testing process. This diversity of critters (apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies) lends credence to the idea that self awareness is more widespread that we have thought. If one accepts the mirror test as valid, then one need to clarify exactly what it means. What does self aware mean? Does it mean consciousness in the same way humans are conscious of themselves? Is it a lesser level consciousness? I see it as a clear sense of self as separate from one’s environment and the ability to act on that separateness, but at some levels critters have fewer built in opportunities to utilize it. This just screams “gradient scale”. All the creatures that have passed the test are conscious, but each in their own way and with different capabilities in how they can use that awareness.

If you want to draw limits around what life forms are conscious and which are not, then you have to clearly define those boundaries in ways that are not just “by definition”. I think that it makes far more sense to attribute some level of self awareness to all life rather than to attempt to put fences around all the various places it appears to be and then to have to defend each of those borders. The tide is moving against the traditional “humans only” position. I do not see a way draw a reasonable boundary such that everything on one side has self awareness and everything on the other does not. Therefore, cells are included. Instinctive and chemically reactive responses to external stimuli then become the more limited options available to a lesser consciousness.

warpus
Feb 21, 2009, 10:54 PM
BirdJaguar, nobody is ever going to agree with you that single cells can be self-conscious, because the behaviour of cells that you attribute to "self-consciousity" (ooh, i feel like colbert, i invented a word) is much easier attributed to simple chemical and biological processes.

Birdjaguar
Feb 21, 2009, 11:20 PM
BirdJaguar, nobody is ever going to agree with you that single cells can be self-conscious, because the behaviour of cells that you attribute to "self-consciousity" (ooh, i feel like colbert, i invented a word) is much easier attributed to simple chemical and biological processes.I am not looking for agreement. And I cannot prove such a position. the logical case for though seems stronger than not though. I am saying that those chemical and biological processes you mention are the manifestations of how a very constrained and limited level of self awreness expresses that condition. people use words and gestures and culture etc. Cells are limited to the use of chemical processes. Humans use the same chemical processes but have additional mental tools for flashier displays of behavior.

Your previous post seemed to be a complicated "we don't know enough to know". But I'm curious, how do fgeel about the mirror tests? Do you think they have vaildity? Where do you draw the line on what is self aware? Is a definition sufficient to create a valid boundary? Or won't you commit beyond "don't know"?

warpus
Feb 22, 2009, 10:26 AM
I am not looking for agreement. And I cannot prove such a position. the logical case for though seems stronger than not though. I am saying that those chemical and biological processes you mention are the manifestations of how a very constrained and limited level of self awreness expresses that condition. people use words and gestures and culture etc. Cells are limited to the use of chemical processes. Humans use the same chemical processes but have additional mental tools for flashier displays of behavior.

See, in my opinion that's like saying that turtles speak English because they communicate.

If you're going to call the behaviour of cells as "self-aware", then you're going to have to come up with a new word for what humans (and several other animals) experience, because it's that much different.

Your previous post seemed to be a complicated "we don't know enough to know". But I'm curious, how do fgeel about the mirror tests? Do you think they have vaildity? Where do you draw the line on what is self aware? Is a definition sufficient to create a valid boundary? Or won't you commit beyond "don't know"?

In my opinion the mirror test is a decent enough self-awareness test. The question of where to draw that line is best left up to people who specialize in that field.. There's no way that that line would include single-celled organisms, though.

Souron
Feb 24, 2009, 05:51 AM
It appars to me that you are just circling your wagons around a more and more complicated definition of sef awareness. first it was " a sense of separation" and now we have thinking, free will, big brains etc. very little of which appears to be supported by anything other than the definition you choose toi employ.

I can accept that self awareness may be requirement for free will (and that topic is a very slippery slope), but I see no reason that free will need be a requirement for self awareness.Yeah, sorry, I got carried away with my vocabulary. That definition was for self awareness. Perhalps midnight is not the best time of day to visit CFC.

You seem to have ruled out the mirror test as a test for self wareness. Is that the case or do you accept it as a valid test for self awareness?It is a test for self awareness, but it is not a perfect test. In particular, it is prone to miss cases of self awareness for creatures that do not rely highly on eyesight. It can principally also have false positives, but those can be minimized by doing the test several times.

Well bird brains are quite small and very different than large mammal brains. If you accept the mirror test then at a minimum that boundary is no higher than birds.ok sure.

Berzerker
Mar 26, 2009, 10:16 PM
genetic "memory" is not the same as awareness

our current universe was born from the "big crunch" of a prior universe and fluctuations in background radiation etc are the result of our big bang coming into contact with debris from the old universe still falling inward. For example, when our sun ignited material in the nebula was still falling inward toward the center and this material either ignited or was blown off or outward leaving behind fluctuations in the heat signature.

Thats my story and I'm sticking to it...

until I get a better story ;)

Perfection
Mar 31, 2009, 07:53 PM
genetic "memory" is not the same as awareness

our current universe was born from the "big crunch" of a prior universe and fluctuations in background radiation etc are the result of our big bang coming into contact with debris from the old universe still falling inward. For example, when our sun ignited material in the nebula was still falling inward toward the center and this material either ignited or was blown off or outward leaving behind fluctuations in the heat signature.

Thats my story and I'm sticking to it...

until I get a better story ;)Big Crunch is not the currently favored cosmological model.

Also, your portrayal of it coming into contact with remnants of the old universe is not a part of any cosmological model taken seriously today.

RalofTyr
Jun 09, 2009, 02:20 PM
The human mind may be incapable of understanding the universe. Our evolutionary process didn't including understanding the concepts that don't fit into our world.

We will find, that perhaps the universe created itself and there's no reason for it. It just is.

warpus
Jun 09, 2009, 05:16 PM
We will find, that perhaps the universe created itself and there's no reason for it. It just is.

I think it's far more likely that it's "always" existed, especially considering how messed up the dimension of time can get (not to mention other possible dimensions of time that might be out there).

Birdjaguar
Jun 12, 2009, 07:14 PM
What other dimensions of "time"?

Lord Olleus
Jun 13, 2009, 06:26 AM
Well in the same way as string theory predicts many more dimensions of space, there could be other dimensions of time.

In physics, the only difference between the two is the sign when working out the metric of space-time.

Birdjaguar
Jun 13, 2009, 07:16 PM
Well in the same way as string theory predicts many more dimensions of space, there could be other dimensions of time.

In physics, the only difference between the two is the sign when working out the metric of space-time.But, IIRC, string theory is just a mathematical model without any basis in observation, a mathematical "holy book" so to speak. Wouldn't multidimensional time be the same then? How different is a cosmological mathematical model from philosophy or well written religious literature? Of course such a model is less accessible to the lay person, but that doesn't seem to be much a selling point.

Lord Olleus
Jun 15, 2009, 11:17 AM
Well I dont know much about these things and yes, there is no direct evidence for more than 4 dimensions, but most theoretical physicists now believe they exist (key word: believe), not just string theorists. Therefore there is nothing that forbids having more time dimensions. I have heard of any theory that requires it, but it is definately not impossible. I imagine that no body has investigated what would happen if there where to much depth because it is so counter intuitive and could possible cause the whole notion of cause and effect to disappear on even macroscopic event.

But importantly there is nothing in physics (that we know) that forbids it so it is a possibility.

Birdjaguar
Jun 15, 2009, 07:31 PM
Well I dont know much about these things and yes, there is no direct evidence for more than 4 dimensions, but most theoretical physicists now believe they exist (key word: believe), not just string theorists. Therefore there is nothing that forbids having more time dimensions. I have heard of any theory that requires it, but it is definately not impossible. I imagine that no body has investigated what would happen if there where to much depth because it is so counter intuitive and could possible cause the whole notion of cause and effect to disappear on even macroscopic event.

But importantly there is nothing in physics (that we know) that forbids it so it is a possibility.

Well I dont know much about these things either and yes, there is no direct evidence for god, but most religious people believe he exists (key word: believe), not just christians. Therefore there is nothing that forbids having a god or more than one god. I haven't heard of any theory that requires it, but it is definately not impossible. I imagine that nobody has investigated what would happen if there were too many gods because it is so counter intuitive and could possible cause our whole notion of why we are here to collapse.

But importantly there is nothing in physics (that we know) that forbids it so it is a possibility. :D

Sorry, I could not resist. You have made my point quite well. String theory is a belief that has been "demonstrated" to work mathematically, but without any grounding in actual observation. How is the belief in multiple dimensions of time any different from believing in god? :)

warpus
Jun 15, 2009, 07:44 PM
But, IIRC, string theory is just a mathematical model without any basis in observation, a mathematical "holy book" so to speak. Wouldn't multidimensional time be the same then? How different is a cosmological mathematical model from philosophy or well written religious literature? Of course such a model is less accessible to the lay person, but that doesn't seem to be much a selling point.

Nothing so far in reality has contradicted string theory - which is not to say that it is correct, or even close to being correct, but it is far from philosophy or "religious literature".

Either way, I don't see what's so special about the dimension from time that we experience. There could be more such dimensions out there.

Birdjaguar
Jun 15, 2009, 11:04 PM
Nothing so far in reality has contradicted string theory - which is not to say that it is correct, or even close to being correct, but it is far from philosophy or "religious literature".
What makes it different if it has no basis in observation?

warpus
Jun 16, 2009, 08:35 AM
What makes it different if it has no basis in observation?

It does - it predicts properties of electrons, protons, etc.

Lord Olleus
Jun 16, 2009, 11:19 AM
Well I dont know much about these things either and yes, there is no direct evidence for god, but most religious people believe he exists (key word: believe), not just christians. Therefore there is nothing that forbids having a god or more than one god. I haven't heard of any theory that requires it, but it is definately not impossible. I imagine that nobody has investigated what would happen if there were too many gods because it is so counter intuitive and could possible cause our whole notion of why we are here to collapse.

But importantly there is nothing in physics (that we know) that forbids it so it is a possibility. :D

Sorry, I could not resist. You have made my point quite well. String theory is a belief that has been "demonstrated" to work mathematically, but without any grounding in actual observation. How is the belief in multiple dimensions of time any different from believing in god? :)

At the moment, nothing. However, if enough research is done into this or string theory then it is almost certain that it will make predictions that we will be able to test experimentaly. The existence of new particles due to super symmetry is the first example that comes to mind but there are others - its just that they require more energy than the Sun will output in several million years so we're not ready to test thoes yet.

But, other than that, I agree, belief in string theory is at the moment barely different from belief in god.

The predictions that have been made by string theory already dont really count as their retrospective predictions rather than proper predictions. Its easy to twiddle your figures to get the answers you now you should get, and much harder if you dont know what the answer is.

warpus
Jun 17, 2009, 11:28 PM
Excuse me, but string theory is 100% falsifiable.

uppi
Jun 18, 2009, 04:23 AM
Excuse me, but string theory is 100% falsifiable.

No, it's not.

At the moment, string theory can predict pretty much everything. That makes it useless for science.

warpus
Jun 18, 2009, 10:56 AM
No, it's not.

At the moment, string theory can predict pretty much everything. That makes it useless for science.

from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory)

Therefore string theory is falsifiable and meets the definition of scientific theory according to the Popperian criterion

uppi
Jun 18, 2009, 03:44 PM
from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory)

you missed the rest of the quote:

All string theory models are quantum mechanical, Lorentz invariant, unitary, and contain Einstein's General Relativity as a low energy limit.[31] So to falsify string theory, it suffices to falsify quantum mechanics, Lorentz invariance, or general relativity. Therefore string theory is falsifiable and meets the definition of scientific theory according to the Popperian criterion. However to constitute a convincing potential verification of string theory, a prediction should be specific to it, not shared by any quantum field theory model or by General Relativity.


:lol: The author of that passage had to be pretty desperate to use this argument try to give string theory some falsifiability. The scientific value of a theory lies in the new predictions it makes and the falsifiabilty of those. If only the underlying theories are falsifiable and nothing of the theory itself it is worthless and doesn't deserve the title "falsifiable".

This argument on wikipedia is equivalent to the argument that the an omnipotent creator is a valid scientific theory, because it contains the existance of the earth, which is falsifiable and therefore a creator is falsifiable.

warpus
Jun 18, 2009, 06:45 PM
I don't think you know what you are talking about.

uppi
Jun 18, 2009, 07:26 PM
I don't think you know what you are talking about.

More than you.

warpus
Jun 18, 2009, 09:15 PM
More than you.

My mom could beat up your dad?

But seriously, equating string theory with belief in God is just silly.

uppi
Jun 19, 2009, 04:40 AM
But seriously, equating string theory with belief in God is just silly.

I am equating belief in string theory with belief in God and that's not silly:
The evidence for both is about equal and both are equally predictive (they predict everything and nothing). Thus as a scientific theory, both have the same value.

Of course there is a lot of math behind string theory, and for mathematical purposes there is a quite some value pursuing it. But it's scientific value is esentially zero at the moment.

What testable prediction does string theory make, that isn't already made by the current theories?
(and before you repeat your claim about electrons and protons, let me say: no it doeesn't predict that)

Birdjaguar
Jun 19, 2009, 06:44 PM
But seriously, equating string theory with belief in God is just silly.
String theory is a very elaborate cosmology that is not rooted in observation. I'm sure the mathematics are impressive and skillfully done, but is it a more impressive a cosmology than the Upanishads?

String theory was certainly created using the best science of the day, but using science and math to construct a model does not make the model valid or more valid than a non scientific model based on only observation and thought.

Souron
Jun 20, 2009, 03:44 AM
String theory is a proposed scientific theory that successfully rectifies the know conflicts in two otherwise established theories. It is therefore better than current established theories in explaining nature. Like any theory it makes predictions and describes nature as different in both makeup and behavior. It also has wide acclaim as being an elegant, that has allowed it to remain popular despite lack of proof. Unfortunately all predictions made by string theory require higher energies or other exotic conditions to disprove.

By contrast belief in God is in direct conflict with the principles of science: in science there are no miracles. It is based on a book that contains multiple provable inaccuracies, and has no other widely acknowledged evidence. It is argued on philosophical merits alone, as if those were held above verifiable fact. It therefore specifically avoids making any definite claims about the behavior of nature.

The two are by no means comparable. If a physicist were to in studying string theory convince himself that the theory must true, it's not that big a deal. It's not totally scientific, but it may be necessary to justify spending time working the theory.

Souron
Jun 20, 2009, 03:52 AM
What testable prediction does string theory make, that isn't already made by the current theories?
(and before you repeat your claim about electrons and protons, let me say: no it doeesn't predict that)
Supersymmetric particles. We just need to build a particle accelerator big enough to find them. Maybe the LHC is big enough.

By contrast, what hypothetical experiment would prove the existence of God?

uppi
Jun 20, 2009, 06:09 AM
Supersymmetric particles. We just need to build a particle accelerator big enough to find them. Maybe the LHC is big enough.


Supersymmetry is not a fundamental part of string theory. While most string theories do include SuSy and would indeed be disproven if we wouldn't find it, this would not disprove string theory itself. There are string theories without SuSy. And then there is no real consensus within string theory about the properties of the supersymmetric particles. In string theory experimental data can only show which string theory could be true, not whether it's true itself. That is the problem if you have 10^500 possible solutions.

Birdjaguar
Jun 20, 2009, 05:26 PM
String theory is a proposed scientific theory that successfully rectifies the know conflicts in two otherwise established theories. It is therefore better than current established theories in explaining nature. Like any theory it makes predictions and describes nature as different in both makeup and behavior. It also has wide acclaim as being an elegant, that has allowed it to remain popular despite lack of proof. Unfortunately all predictions made by string theory require higher energies or other exotic conditions to disprove.

By contrast belief in God is in direct conflict with the principles of science: in science there are no miracles. It is based on a book that contains multiple provable inaccuracies, and has no other widely acknowledged evidence. It is argued on philosophical merits alone, as if those were held above verifiable fact. It therefore specifically avoids making any definite claims about the behavior of nature.

The two are by no means comparable. If a physicist were to in studying string theory convince himself that the theory must true, it's not that big a deal. It's not totally scientific, but it may be necessary to justify spending time working the theory.Hmmm...Your idea that belief in god is solely the domain of the fundamentalist or other Christians is somewhat arresting. Belief in god is not based on a book. Books, whether they are the bible or one of the other many books thought important by theists, are the way theists have over the years noted things about their belief in god. They are the reference works of religious people, much like journals are the source of scientific papers today. Belief in god does not rest within books, but in the experiences people have. Religious books are explanations of those events and attempts to organize the world in alignment with those experiences.

You seem to be saying that if I make a mathematical prediction about the universe that cannot be proven, it is different (and better) that if I make a experiential or philosophical prediction about the universe that cannot be proven. What if I wrote a long, complicated and generally inaccessible explanation of how reincarnation works and then at the end said: "but we don't have the tools to actually prove it at the moment." Would you accept it as true? If not, why would you accept String theory as anything different? Its mathematics just keeps it internally consistent and aligned with other current scientific processes; it does not prove it or make it more likely to be true any more than adding to the Upanishads using Sanskrit makes the additions true for Hindus.

I've included this material to remind you that sting theory is not a single theory or one that even enjoys an agreed upon set of fundamental assumptions.

http://www.superstringtheory.com/basics/index.html

Today the functions of theory and observation are divided into two distinct communities in physics. Both experiments and theories are much more complex than back in Newton's time. Theorists are exploring areas of Nature in mathematics that technology so far does not allow us to observe in experiments. Many of the theoretical physicists who are alive today may not live to see how the real Nature compares with her mathematical description in their work. Today's theorists have to learn to live with ambiguity and uncertainty in their mission to describe Nature using math.

http://www.superstringtheory.com/basics/basic5.html

There are several ways theorists can build string theories. Start with the elementary ingredient: a wiggling tiny string. Next decide: should it be an open string or a closed string? Then ask: will I settle for only bosons ( particles that transmit forces) or will I ask for fermions, too (particles that make up matter)? (Remember that in string theory, a particle is like a note played on the string.)
If the answer to the last question is "Bosons only, please!" then one gets bosonic string theory. If the answer is "No, I demand that matter exist!" then we wind up needing supersymmetry, which means an equal matching between bosons (particles that transmit forces) and fermions (particles that make up matter). A supersymmetric string theory is called a superstring theory. There are five kinds of superstring theories, shown in the table below.

The final question for making a string theory should be: can I do quantum mechanics sensibly? For bosonic strings, this question is only answered in the affirmative if the spacetime dimensions number 26. For superstrings we can whittle it down to 10. How we get down to the four spacetime dimensions we observe in our world is another story.

If we ask how to get from ten spacetime dimensions to four spacetime dimensions, then the number of string theories grows, because there are so many possible ways to make six dimensions much much smaller than the other four in string theory. This process of compactification of unwanted spacetime dimensions yields interesting physics on its own.
But the number of string theories has also been shrinking in recent years, because string theorists are discovering that what they thought were completely different theories were in fact different ways of looking at the same theory!
This period in string history has been given the name the second string revolution.
And now the biggest rush in string research is to collapse the table above into one theory, which some people want to call M theory, for it is the Mother of all theories.
Stay tuned to this web site, we may someday soon be changing the name to The Official M Theory Web Site!

Souron
Jun 20, 2009, 10:28 PM
Hmmm...Your idea that belief in god is solely the domain of the fundamentalist or other Christians is somewhat arresting. Belief in god is not based on a book. Books, whether they are the bible or one of the other many books thought important by theists, are the way theists have over the years noted things about their belief in god. They are the reference works of religious people, much like journals are the source of scientific papers today. Belief in god does not rest within books, but in the experiences people have. Religious books are explanations of those events and attempts to organize the world in alignment with those experiences. Even for those theists who don't believe in holy books, the rest of my argument stands.
There are those that would say that their belief in God stems from holy books an their contents. It also comes from other people believing in God. Neither of these are scientific reasons.

You seem to be saying that if I make a mathematical prediction about the universe that cannot be proven, it is different (and better) that if I make a experiential or philosophical prediction about the universe that cannot be proven. What if I wrote a long, complicated and generally inaccessible explanation of how reincarnation works and then at the end said: "but we don't have the tools to actually prove it at the moment." Would you accept it as true? If not, why would you accept String theory as anything different? Its mathematics just keeps it internally consistent and aligned with other current scientific processes; it does not prove it or make it more likely to be true any more than adding to the Upanishads using Sanskrit makes the additions true for Hindus. String theory is not just a complicated set of equations. It explains away an inconsistency that exist in current theory. Relativity and Quantum mechanics as currently modeled are simply incompatible, due to how they explain the nature of space time, and the relationship between observer and the observed. String theory rectifies these differences.

That alone does not make it true. But it does make more likely to be true then the current models, which we know to be at least partially false.

Souron
Jun 20, 2009, 10:39 PM
Supersymmetry is not a fundamental part of string theory. While most string theories do include SuSy and would indeed be disproven if we wouldn't find it, this would not disprove string theory itself. There are string theories without SuSy. And then there is no real consensus within string theory about the properties of the supersymmetric particles. In string theory experimental data can only show which string theory could be true, not whether it's true itself. That is the problem if you have 10^500 possible solutions.
First of all, the number of individual models that fall under the name string theory do not diminish the possible verification or falsification of any one of those models.

Second, I gave the number one example that may be tested the soonest, but there are others. All versions of string theory make predictions about the behavior of relativistic quantum mechanical particles interacting gravitationally. That's the point of string theory: to explain quantum gravity, thereby achieving a complete model of the universe that we currently lack.

Lord Olleus
Jun 21, 2009, 03:07 AM
Your belief about string theory stems to come from the fact that current theories do not work. That argument is indentical to creationists saying "that particular fact doesnt fit evolutionary theory, so Creationism is true". This isn't simply a case of saying if A isnt true, then B must be. Your forgetting a lot of other possible theories such a quantum loop gravity (which is becoming increasingly popular) and granular space-time. All of those can reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity.

Souron
Jun 24, 2009, 08:34 PM
I am not forgetting anything, as I am not arguing that string theory is true. I am simply saying that string theory has a few more legs to stand on than God, as far as science is concerned.

Perfection
Oct 15, 2009, 12:30 AM
Certainly it is not like what we experience, but as I said it would seem to be a lesser form of awareness and I would contend that as one moves up the chain of complexity from atoms and molecules to simple life and then to more complex life, the degree of self-awareness" increases.

As far as human made devices go, I would say they fall into a different category because we have created the device to do specific things. Whatever awareness you program into a piece of software, it is more similar to an alarm clock knowing to go off at 6:00 than it is to an elephant touching a dot on its forehead.Why? Shouldn't things be judged concious by functional ability not origin? I mean your previous statement of "How is recognizing sef from non self not some form of consciousness or awareness?" pretty much ties you to a functionalist account.

File f = new File("me.exe");
FileInputStream fis = new FileInputStream(f);
BufferedInputStream bis = new BufferedInputStream(fis);
DataInputStream dis = new DataInputStream(bis);

if (dis.readLine().substring(14) == ''MZ   ") {
System.out.println("It's me!"); {
} else {
System.out.println("Who tf");
}Lame, it doesn't work for all cases.