Saturday, September 25, 2010

Consciousness Step 3: The Ghost in the Machine

First, I think I am going to have to change my Friday update to a "sometime over the weekend" update. I assume this shan't upset anyone, and it works out better for me considering how utterly wiped out I can be by Friday. Of course, I retain the right to alter this schedule if it should seem necessary, or desired by my readers. On that note, I expect to alter my schedule somewhat for October, but I don't yet know what I want to do and talk about, so this is your chance to affect that.

So, in the consciousness posts that I did manage to put up this month, we talked about what consciousness is and who has it, with no definite answers of course. Today I plan to talk about how it arises, with no definite answers again.

The phrase, "ghost in the machine," refers to the existence of a consciousness in what is otherwise considered a deterministic machine, that is our biological body. The term can also be used to describe the perception that some computer users develop that their system has its own personality. Let us consider the artificial consciousness for the moment.

Some people theorize that, as programs become larger and more complicated, we might stumble upon artificial awareness, or consciousness, purely by accident. The layers upon layers of code that we create may suddenly interact in a startling and unforeseen manner, creating the ghost in the machine. This would probably be an example of emergence, the phenomena of simple interactions eventually creating quite complicated structures.

The reason that I desired to consider artificial awareness first, is that it provides an interesting analogy as to how our own could have been formed. Regulatory processes within the brain building upon each other, growing ever more complicated, until one day a process realized that it existed. So, in a sense, we are the ghosts in the machine.

This should wrap up my consideration of consciousness for the moment, so some discussion questions to part with. Which would you consider more essential to your sense of self, your left leg or your sense of humor? Have you ever consciously regulated your breathing rate, then tried to return to subconscious regulation? Why do you think it is important to think about our consciousness?

1 comment:

Frank said...

First off, since school has started I have been an intermittent reader, so by all means, be an intermittent writer. I always read your posts, just not as regularly as I did in the summer.

1. I just have to go with my left leg, Kenny, because I think if I lost my sense of humor, I could compensate for it with some of my other internal attributes. That's not to say that I couldn't compensate for my left leg, and in fact, any people do, but it would be more difficult.

2. Yep, but eventually, my mind goes onto other things and I am unregulated before I know it. In fact, right now I am regulating it because I am thinking about it. Kind of strange, really.

3. I think most of us just sleep walk through life, really, and it is for that reason alone that we should think about our consciousness. I just read in Mark today how Jesus was constantly urging his disciples to wake up. i don't think he would have said that if there wasn't a need to say it, either back then or now.