^z 12th October 2023 at 3:00pm

A thermostat responds to its environment with an on/off, a 1 or a 0 — a single bit of information. An insect has thousands of nerve cells, carefully interwoven and wired to sensors that detect light, pressure, trace chemicals, etc. — and so the bug brain manipulates thousands of bits of information. Higher creatures are correspondingly more complex. Human brains detect millions of input signals and have billions of active neurons with hugely greater numbers of interconnections.

People are (most of the time!) inarguably conscious. There's a general consensus that animals, especially mammals, are conscious too, though their mental states are perhaps simpler and their problem-solving abilities more limited. This suggests many questions:

  • Is there a continuum of consciousness?
  • Does a thermostat have "one bit" of mind, while persons have billions of bits?
  • May consciousness be distributed over many individuals — so that, for example, an anthill has a sum of the contributions of the ants that comprise it?
  • Might a kind of collaborative human mind exist, diffused across the world's literature, scientific publications, and art?
  • Could consciousness reside in a system of rules and procedures — like the (in)famous "Chinese Room" which understands and responds to questions based on look-up tables and calculations?
  • Can consciousness run slowly, perhaps far too slowly for us to notice?
  • Could a glacial mental pace exist in objects such as forests, or tectonic plates, or galaxies?

(It seems to me that answers to all of the above could well be "yes"....)

Friday, January 21, 2000 at 06:03:38 (EST) = 2000-01-21

TopicMind - TopicPhilosophy - TopicScience

(correlates: DiffuseConsciousness, Suboptimism, ThirdPlace, ...)