Consciousness: what it is, where it comes from, do machines can have it and why do we care?

Is consciousness possible in:


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Strictly speaking, humans don't need to know where they are going either, so as to keep carrying something with another person; since balancing it and moving onwards is its own task.
Maybe the beetles don't need to drop it at so specific an end point, or what is to decide the end point is exactly where it happens to be dropped.
 
“How does a beetle with a brain smaller than a grain of rice communicate? And how do they coordinate with each other in performing this task?”

Magic must be the answer!
 
Strictly speaking, humans don't need to know where they are going either
This is the point. Humans and dung beetles manage it, and no other animal as far as we know.
 
If consciousness could somehow spring into existence caused by advanced computing power, or advanced algorithms, that moment would have happened decades ago. Studies tell us that consciousness already exist in fetuses when the biological brain is created. When the brain has no 'programming' or memory at all, other than what it is born with.
 
This is the point. Humans and dung beetles manage it, and no other animal as far as we know.
If its particularly about moving stuff without having decided where you will drop it, I am not seeing it.
If it is about moving stuff with another of your species, without having decided where you will drop it, why wouldn't it be "decided" by when you feel tired enough? Then that point is defined as where you "should" have left it. Insects aren't known to move past one level of calculation (eg recall that Sphinx example).
 
If consciousness could somehow spring into existence caused by advanced computing power, or advanced algorithms, that moment would have happened decades ago. Studies tell us that consciousness already exist in fetuses when the biological brain is created. When the brain has no 'programming' or memory at all, other than what it is born with.
One question you raise is whether silicon chip electronics is like biological life electronics. How similar are they at the subatomic level? Is living matter different from non living matter? Hard questions.
 
If its particularly about moving stuff without having decided where you will drop it, I am not seeing it.
If it is about moving stuff with another of your species, without having decided where you will drop it, why wouldn't it be "decided" by when you feel tired enough? Then that point is defined as where you "should" have left it. Insects aren't known to move past one level of calculation (eg recall that Sphinx example).
From this paragraph:

While ants coordinate to haul food to their nests, and social spiders cooperate to carry prey to their shelters, both know where they are heading and when they have arrived. With dung beetles, couples start rolling their dung balls with no idea where they will stop.​

I read this as in those cases they both know where they are going, and so with ants each only needs to follow the scent trail and it will work out. When we do we use some combination of verbal communication, physical feedback and having a mental image of the other person is likely to do. All these things are pretty "higher functions", the sort of thing that one could use to indicate consciousness. The fact that the first non-human animal in which we detect this level of cooperation should be so different to us, and such a "lower" organism, seems noteworthy to me and worth commenting on in this thread.
 
From this paragraph:

While ants coordinate to haul food to their nests, and social spiders cooperate to carry prey to their shelters, both know where they are heading and when they have arrived. With dung beetles, couples start rolling their dung balls with no idea where they will stop.​

I read this as in those cases they both know where they are going, and so with ants each only needs to follow the scent trail and it will work out. When we do we use some combination of verbal communication, physical feedback and having a mental image of the other person is likely to do. All these things are pretty "higher functions", the sort of thing that one could use to indicate consciousness. The fact that the first non-human animal in which we detect this level of cooperation should be so different to us, and such a "lower" organism, seems noteworthy to me and worth commenting on in this thread.
I wonder how octopuses fit into this?
 
I wonder how octopuses fit into this?
I have no doubt there are other animals that can do this, for example most pack hunting animals must be capable of a certain amount of awareness of others role in a dynamic cooperative endeavour. It really does indicate we could be looking for clever in things very different from us.
 
Rethinking consciousness is a good thing. We need a less human focused approach.
 
From this paragraph:

While ants coordinate to haul food to their nests, and social spiders cooperate to carry prey to their shelters, both know where they are heading and when they have arrived. With dung beetles, couples start rolling their dung balls with no idea where they will stop.​

I read this as in those cases they both know where they are going, and so with ants each only needs to follow the scent trail and it will work out. When we do we use some combination of verbal communication, physical feedback and having a mental image of the other person is likely to do. All these things are pretty "higher functions", the sort of thing that one could use to indicate consciousness. The fact that the first non-human animal in which we detect this level of cooperation should be so different to us, and such a "lower" organism, seems noteworthy to me and worth commenting on in this thread.
I am only arguing against this having to show cooperation in the sense implied. Since if your partner insect stops (it was too tired to carry on), you will have to stop too. And from a natural point of view, there's no reason to suggest that they'd stop before they were meaningfully away from where they started; would that not itself be in those cases "enough" of a distance to end the task?*
I am not familiar with where they are taking those bits, or if they actually will drop them in the same place twice.

*To us, as humans, being tired is by now mostly a nuisance, but to most creatures it likely is an integral part of how they end up where they do.
 
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One question you raise is whether silicon chip electronics is like biological life electronics. How similar are they at the subatomic level? Is living matter different from non living matter? Hard questions.

Well, at a subatomic level, everything is similar. A quark in this proton, is identical to the quark in another proton.

They way I see it, a brain needs consciousness/awareness to be of any beneficial use. So, every biological lifeform that develops a brain, develops consciousness too. Then you can speculate whether it also applies to lower lifeforms without brains or nervous systems. I don't know. We can't really study a cell and make a conclusive statement one way or the other.
 
I am only arguing against this having to show cooperation in the sense implied. Since if your partner insect stops (it was too tired to carry on), you will have to stop too. And from a natural point of view, there's no reason to suggest that they'd stop before they were meaningfully away from where they started; would that not itself be in those cases "enough" of a distance to end the task?
I am not familiar with where they are taking those bits, or if they actually will drop them in the same place twice.
The paper abstract is below. I think the point is no one has shown it before. It is only in putting it in this thread that I am really suggesting it may be related to consciousness, and then only weakly.

Spoiler Abstract :
Cooperative transport allows for the transportation of items too large for the capacity of a single individual. Beyond humans, it is regularly employed by ants and social spiders where two or more individuals, with more or less coordinated movements, transport food to a known destination. In contrast to this, pairs of male and female dung beetles successfully transport brood balls to a location unknown to either party at the start of their common journey. We found that, when forced to overcome a series of obstacles in their path, transport efficiency of pairs of beetles was higher than of solo males. To climb tall obstacles with their common ball of dung, the female assisted the leading male in lifting the ball by steadying and pushing it upwards in a ‘headstand’ position during the climb initiation. Finally, we show that pairs were faster than single beetles in climbing obstacles of different heights. Our results suggest that pairs of Sisyphus beetles cooperate in the transportation of brood balls with coordinated movements, where the male steers and the female primarily assists in lifting the ball. Taken together, this is to our knowledge, the first quantitative study of cooperative food transport without a known goal to aim for.
 
It is certainly an interesting bit of information, Samson :)
Do you think it is more likely to not be a case of instincts acting as axioms do to push forward steps in a theorem? (which, of course, could be done by non-conscious computers since the very first).

Maybe some such traits in creatures are unwittingly arising from the system, likewise for other "unique" cases, eg some types of ants having developed animal husbandry (but only one).
 
Well, at a subatomic level, everything is similar. A quark in this proton, is identical to the quark in another proton.

They way I see it, a brain needs consciousness/awareness to be of any beneficial use. So, every biological lifeform that develops a brain, develops consciousness too. Then you can speculate whether it also applies to lower lifeforms without brains or nervous systems. I don't know. We can't really study a cell and make a conclusive statement one way or the other.
Living things do behave differently than non living things even when made up of identical parts (at the chemical level). The step between, say a virus and a living cell, is pretty small. I am not sure what is one step down from a virus (away from life) but I would guess that step is also a small one. That is one reason I like to see consciousness as a continuum (from lesser to greater) of consciousness that stretches from inert natural matter through all living things. then the question becomes can one assemble inert, less/little conscious matter into something that is close to high level living matter consciousness? Or does life itself impart some quality that cannot be assembled from none living things?
 
It is certainly an interesting bit of information, Samson :)
Do you think it is more likely to not be a case of instincts acting as axioms do to push forward steps in a theorem? (which, of course, could be done by non-conscious computers since the very first).

Maybe some such traits in creatures are unwittingly arising from the system, likewise for other "unique" cases, eg some types of ants having developed animal husbandry (but only one).
The thing is I am not sure where I draw the line between the two. At the lowest level we understand how our brains work, neurons are processing units that take a weighted average of their input frequency as their output frequency, with a certain time lag. Add 20 billion together in just the right way and you get our consciousness. These dung beetles are doing whatever they are doing with only a few hundred thousand of these processing units. Is that best described as "instincts acting as axioms" or collaborative problem optimised for minimal energy consumption?
 
But there would be a lower bound, complexity-wise too, for consciousness.
That said, those beetles already have a sense, which is already something computers may never acquire. A man in the Chinese Room, could (up to) have no sense of what Chinese is. But a computer in the Chinese Room, doesn't have to even have a sense of what anything is.
 
Or does life itself impart some quality that cannot be assembled from none living things?

As for 'qualities' or characteristics: life means cellular activity, cellular growth. Very complex molecules and chemistry. Lifeforms can absorb energy and transform it to chemistry designed for survival. Lifeforms can reproduce themselves and evolve. And lifeforms have a natural lifespan; they eventually die.

Non-living things have none of the above, I think. I don't think non-living things have awareness either, because of what use would it be? I see consciousness as a product of evolution and non-living things don't really evolve.
 
As for 'qualities' or characteristics: life means cellular activity, cellular growth. Very complex molecules and chemistry. Lifeforms can absorb energy and transform it to chemistry designed for survival. Lifeforms can reproduce themselves and evolve. And lifeforms have a natural lifespan; they eventually die.

Non-living things have none of the above, I think. I don't think non-living things have awareness either, because of what use would it be? I see consciousness as a product of evolution and non-living things don't really evolve.
Is "chemical awareness" awareness? If molecular or atomic proximity causes an event, isn't that a primitive form of awareness? I do agree that life changes things in some fashion that makes it different from inert matter, but the step from virus to life is hardly a big one. Once alive, brand new capacities develop for sure. I know that moving consciousness to inert matter is pretty radical, but makes sense because we are all just inert matter at the most basic level. :)

We have many automatic reflexes that just happen: blinking is one. How different is the "automatic" attraction or repulsion of atoms from many of the automatic functions of our bodies. They scale differently, in both there are similar forces at work.
 
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