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Consciousness

Consciousness
(04-13-2020, 06:54 PM)Mark Wrote: Speaking on behalf of the organism whose sensory experience you process, of course "you" do it.  But do you also beat your heart somehow and raise and lower your blood pressure as required or carefully monitor your balance at all times?  In your capacity as chief sensory monitor, you are part of the linkage which results in the movement of your limbs.  You recognize the desirability of the move in response to a pattern you've detected and you aren't inhibiting the movement for some over riding reason which you also recognize, so the limb moves.  But no direct control is required.  The organism for which you speak stands ready to respond to its environment by way of your interpretation of threats and opportunities.  I doubt if there is really much more to it than that.  I know you don't imagine any kind of homunculus pulling levers and steering wheels between your ears any more than I do.

But "I" am the complete system: body and brain/mind, and not a homunculus as you say.  For instance, I may have only indirect control over my heartbeat, but I can certainly change it by running in place.  All of the same processes are subject to both unconscious and conscious operation, so to say something is unconscious doesn't mean it is always so.  No direct control may be required since we have so many useful habits, except sometimes when it is required for whatever reason.  We have that flexibility even down to our breathing. 

This is the picture I've been trying to communicate: consciousness flits around the system.  Sometimes it pays attention to sight, sometimes hearing, sometimes movement, sometimes thoughts, sometimes memories.  It is a free-floating executive, paying attention wherever it thinks it might be useful at any given time.  Sometimes it intervenes but many times it doesn't (if things are going smoothly).  It's there when we need it.  And we need it when something unexpected arises, some glitch in the system or some new circumstances when mere habitual responses are inadequate.  Then it improvises.  Sometimes it patches together a couple different routines into a new combination.  Sometimes it learns through trial and error to work out a new habit or recipe.  Consciousness constantly changes since it builds on what it has done before in the brain, which becomes habituated in turn.  Neuroplasticity gives us that adaptability.

What we pay attention to builds up our habitual systems over time.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of points from the book Learning: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Mark Haselgrove at the University of Nottingham, published in 2016:

“Learning is the aquisition of information by a biological organism.” Scientists prefer to define learning as “a relatively permanent change in behavior as a consequence of experience,” since they can objectively measure and test overt behaviors, even if they have to elicit them to do so. Learning is observable across the animal kingdom, from ants and bees to apes and humans. But learning is different than the instinctive behaviors of animals, which are coded into their genes. To adapt to changing circumstances, animals can modify their behaviors by what they have learned from their experiences.

There are a number of different types of learning, but not all are common to all animals:

* Habituation, which is observed even in single-cell organisms, is the reduction in the likelihood of a behavior due to the repetition of a stimuli.

* Classical conditioning, which is observed in sea slugs all the way up to humans, is the association of a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus. For example, Ivan Pavlov conditioned his dogs to salivate at the ring of a bell (the conditioned stimulus) since they had learned to associate it with being fed (the unconditioned stimulus). The importance of such an associative ability to learning becomes obvious when we consider that adaptability is all about learning to react to the specific circumstances which promise to meet an animal’s basic needs. This learning can take the forms of both aversive and appetitive conditioning. Conditioning can be reduced or extinguished if the association between the the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus is lost, and can be recoved when the association is strengthened again.

* Instrumental conditioning is similar in many ways, but depends on the animal learning an arbitrary behavior or a series of arbitrary behaviors to be rewarded. This is observed by training pigeons and rats to accomplish complex patterns of behaviors, for instance. Such instrumental conditioning can be shaped, or built up, by a series of steps with a reward for each step before the final elaboration of behaviors is learned. Superstitions can be seen as instrumentally conditioned by social reward systems. Such instrumental conditioning can also be generalized to other, similar stimuli.

* Goal-directed actions are modifiable depending on the results, and are therefore constantly adapted to specific circumstances. Nevertheless, habits created in such a learning process may take on a life of their own.

* Imaginary conditioning is when an animal reacts to stimuli not present. We have evidence that animals are “in possession of something akin to private, internal representations, and furthermore that these representations can be linked together to influence behaviors.” “Does learning require the use of motivationally significant events? Probably not.” “Organisms are capable of forming associations between motivationally neutral events.”

* Configurational learning is what happens with a set of complex variables. For instance, learning that toothpaste and orange juice taste bad together even if they taste fine separately. “The same stimulus can signal different outcomes in different circumstances.”

* Cognitive maps are built up and applied by more complex animals for navigating through space and time. These are much more sophisticated than simple conditioning, with stimului and responses and an entirely egocentric perspective, can take into account. Cognitive maps are allocentric, which means “the animal is navigating using information from a viewpoint other than that which was explicitly experienced during training.” Cognitive neuroscience thereby became an entirely separate discipline from behaviorism. “Learning the map is not governed by associative principles. Instead, cognitive maps are continually updated.”

* Imitation, or learning from others, is yet another learning strategy among more complex, social animals. One animal demonstrates its knowledge, and another observes and learns it through imitation. This method is much quicker than trial and error alone, and is used to learn what foods to eat, what tools to use, what to be afraid of, how to behave in difference circumstances, and so on. Mirror neurons are thought to explain social learning.

* Following verbal instructions with multiple steps, which depends on language skills, is the last form of learning covered in the book. Mathematical operations, scientific experiments, baking a cake, reasoning, and even arriving at a party with no more than an address and a time are all examples of this higher-level learning ability. Learning that depends on associations is sometimes referred to as “thinking fast,” whereas following instructions is more obviously “thinking slow.” Thinking slow “is more deliberative and requires effortful mental processes, such as the formation of propositions about things and the use of logic and decision making.”

Other observations:

“The brain is made up of trillions and trillions of connections. ‘Connection’ is what the brain does really well. The behaviour of these connections can change with experience.”

We learn more when we are surprised. A surprise is a violation of an expectation. “There was a difference between what you expected to happen and what really happened.” “The amount of learning that takes place is related to how surprised the animal is.” Learning slows down and eventually stops when stimuli are habituated. Expectations can be met, exceeded, or even disappointed so that conditioning is weakened by a negative learning experience.

“Attention can be captured by stimuli which have been already established as good predictors of a subsequent event.” “Learning has evoled in such a manner as to help us filter out irrelevant information, and to permit us to focus instead on stimuli that are relevant to a particular task.” “Experiments conducted with both rats and humans have shown that both will spend more time looking at a stimulus that is only occasionally followed by an event (thus sustaining an element of surprise) than a stimulus that is consistently followed by an event (which ultimately has become entirely predictable).”

The simple principle of surprise “allows learning to be selective – organisms will not blindly associate any events that happen to co-occur, as is so often assumed of classical conditioning. Instead animals restrict their learning to circumstances in which there is a difference between what is expected and what is actually obtained.”

Classical conditioning “permits organisms to anticipate the world which they inhabit – to respond appropriately and, in the case of instrumental conditioning, to take control of their environment for material gains.” But such forms of learning work much more effectively when animals have the capacity to learn about space and time. They have to know where and when their responses will best be rewarded. Such perceptions vary widely with the complexity of the animals in question.

Unlike most animals, humans possess the whole range of learning abilities, and one form of learning can interfere with another. (This underscores the kluges of evolution: a new processing ability is built on top of an old one.)
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Consciousness
I'm just finishing reading about some very interesting results albeit on a site about which I know nothing. Still pretty interesting results and a little theory. I may have more to say when finished.

https://aeon.co/essays/to-say-what-consc...1-70799743
"Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I'll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's. 
F. D.
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Consciousness
(05-22-2020, 06:15 PM)Mark Wrote: I'm just finishing reading about some very interesting results albeit on a site about which I know nothing.  Still pretty interesting results and a little theory.  I may have more to say when finished.

https://aeon.co/essays/to-say-what-consc...1-70799743

Science has come a long way from behaviorism, when consciousness wasn't considered a fit subject for study.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of points from the book Thinking and Reasoning: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Jonathan Evans at Plymouth University, published in 2017:

More than anything else, thinking is what defines us as humans. It is the reason for our successes. With it, we can solve unique problems, make well-reasoned decisions, and use engineering, math, and science to alter the world we live in. We can also use it to study thinking and reasoning themselves.

“Reasoning involved making suppositions and inferring their consequences.” Failure to think well can sometimes lead to terrible consequences. Many mistakes are based on cognitive biases which we can learn to overcome.

Forms of inference

There are three main forms of inference: abduction, deduction, and induction. Abduction is “reasoning to the best explanation.” The best explanation is considered the most probable one, which isn’t necessarily the correct one. “Abductive inferences are inherently uncertain.” Deductions are logical inferences from assumptions or premises. “A logically valid argument will guarantee a true conclusion given true assumptions.” “Deductions merely bring out conclusions that follow from what we already believe or assume to be true.” Inductive inferences depend on observations. They are extrapolations to generalizations.

Methods of study

Historically, people studied thinking through introspection. Once philosophers and scientists realized that many thinking processes are unconscious and automatic, they understood the limitations of this method. Rationalizations, or “false reasons invented by the conscious mind to explain behavior caused by the unconscious,” are very common in human behavior. “People don’t know what they don’t know,” even about themselves.

Behaviorism was created as a strong reaction to introspective methods. It banished the inner workings of the mind in favor of external behaviors which could be observed and measured. Behaviorists focused on classical and instrumental conditioning, and largely considered thinking a matter of building up complex associations. However, behaviorism failed very badly to explain language, “which led people to understand the inadequacy of behaviourist learning theory.” “Humans can also perform cognitive feats that no kind of conditioning can explain.”

Cognitive psychology largely displaced behaviorism, especially after it was supplemented by the more direct neuroscientific observations of the inner workings of the brain. “The premise of cognitive psychology is that the brain is a computer and our task is to uncover its programs.” Thinking was redefined as information processing. Cognitive psychologists “observe the observable and theorize about the unobservable processes responsible” in a manner similar to physicists. They make predictions about behaviors and test their theories with experiments. This is still the dominant approach to the study of thinking and reasoning.

Defining thinking

“Thinking arises when there is no simple neurological programming or previously learned response that will deal with the current task. The psychology of thinking deals primarily with novelty. How do we solve a problem, make a decision, or reason to a conclusion when we have never encountered a task of that kind previously?” The book summarizes what cognitive psychologists have learned about such questions.

Problem solving

Usually we can depend on our routines and habits to see us through our days. But sometimes life presents us with problems which “are ill-defined, lacking clear procedures or rules for their solution.” “The solution of novel problems is what generally marks our species out as different from both animals and earlier hominids.” Sometimes solutions come to us through insights rather than mere trial-and-error as behaviorists would have it. Gestalt psychologists studied mindsets which inhibit solutions, and promoted thinking outside the box. “Newell and Simon described problem solving as a search within a problem space. A problem space is the set of possibilities generated by any well-defined problem. A computationally intractable problem is one with a very large problem space.” Heuristics are used to reduce the problem space, though they can’t guarantee success. For instance, one might work backwards from the goal, break the problem down into parts, question assumptions, reason by analogy, or do a means-end analysis. Heuristics can be applied intuitively, but they can also be taught.

“Although a minimum level of IQ may well be needed to become expert in some fields, what marks experts out is the extent of specialized knowledge that they have acquired. This knowledge is often manifest in the form of superior intuitions.” But intuitive solutions can be both compelling and wrong.

Thinking hypothetically

Imagination is “a unique form of human intelligence” which is “fundamental to rational decision making,” since it allows us to hypothesize alternative scenarios. Conditional (if-then) statements are how we often capture our hypothetical thinking. “Developing and testing hypotheses in an informal way is part of our everyday thinking.” We gather evidence, perform tests, and reformulate hypotheses based on results if necessary.

We all have mental models, and the mental models of experts are much more complex and detailed. Scientific “theories allow us to understand and predict the natural world and are also the basis of technological advancement.” However, the problem of induction prevents us from achieving absolute knowledge. So we focus on falsifiability instead. We try to disprove our hypotheses in certain circumstances to understand their limitations. We check and repeat experiments if necessary. Those who, instead, look only for proof that they are right are suffering from confirmation bias.

“Causal models can help us to disentangle causation from correlation.” We systematically change variables in controlled experiments to work these out. Doing all of this well requires special training. “Causal hypotheses and mental models seem to be fundamental to our thinking, but our ability to distinguish correlation from causation without training is limited.”

Decision making

Most apparent decisions we make are driven by habits and routines. “Another view is that we make decisions when we depart from the habitual.”

“In the language of dual-process theory, automatic Type 1 processes dominate most of our everyday choices. The psychology of decision making mostly involves novel choice problems that require Type 2, deliberative thinking for their solution.” Errors mostly come from Type 1 processing.

People’s decision-making parallels their economic decisions, with projections, probabilities, and assigned values. These can be represented in decision trees. Still, people have any number of cognitive biases when it comes to their decision-making. For instance, people often make different decisions for the same situation depending on how it is framed. They consistently underestimate how long any task with take. They also are very bad as assigning probabilities to various possibilities. This has led experts to debate whether the rational decision making assumed in economic theory is really valid. Are people really rational decision makers?

Reasoning

“In the case of deductive reasoning the normative theory is logic, and in the case of statistical inference it is probability theory.” But people have difficulties arriving at correct answers to problems even with enough information to do so, so they repeatedly fall short of these norms.

“When we say that someone is reasoning logically, we mean that they are making valid arguments and avoiding fallacies.” However, “belief-based reasoning is the norm with human beings, regardless of ability.” People fail to look for counterexamples for what they believe. Instead, they engage in motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. So real logical reasoning typically requires “a combination of high IQ and a good deal of conscious effort to achieve. It may also require extensive training.”

“Faced with the evidence of illogical reasoning in the study of deduction, psychologists could either declare people to be irrational ... or else question the use of logic as the standard to judge them by.”

Are we rational?

When tested, people frequently make errors and show biases. “Some psychologists and philosophers have wondered whether this means that human beings must be intrinsically irrational.” It depends, in part, on what variety of rationality you consider. Instrumental rationality is behaving appropriately to achieve certain goals, epistemic rationality is when we hold true beliefs, bounded rationality is when we can be rational only within the limits of our cognitive abilities, normative rationality is when we can comply with the normative standards of logic and statistical reasoning, ecological rationality is our ability to adapt to a certain environment, and evolutionary rationality is our ability to achieve the goals of our genes.

So although people are not generally epistemically or normatively rational without special training or a high IQ, they may still behave quite rationally by other standards. This is why “evolutionary psychology made a big impact on the psychology of reasoning and decision making.” It put human thinking skills in their appropriate contexts.

Two minds

A lot of brain work is automatic or habitual because consciousness has a limited capacity. Still, consciousness can monitor such habitual behaviors to correct them when necessary, for instance when we mistype a word or make a wrong turn. Type 1 thinking is fast and intuitive, whereas Type 2 thinking is slow and reflective. “Some modern psychologists, however, still refer to a distinction between conscious and nonconscious thinking. For instance, Tim Wilson has stated that the ‘adaptive unconscious is more than a gatekeeper, deciding what information to admit to consciousness. It is also a spin doctor that interprets information outside of consciousness.’” So even when Type 1 thinking leads us to depend on stereotypes and prejudices, Type 2 thinking can be used merely to rationalize them. Nevertheless, “many cognitive psychologists avoid talking about consciousness at all, believing it to be a poorly defined concept.”

“The brain must carry out the vast majority of its processing automatically, rapidly, and outside of conscious awareness. Most of this processing is effective and helps us achieve our goals.” “We learn continuously by experiences without necessarily being conscious of doing so. Such learning can provide very effective intuitions to aid our decision making. ... Expert problem solving and decision making often arises from fast pattern recognition processes rather than slow reflective reasoning.”

In contrast, “Type 2 thinking – conscious reflection – comes into its own when problems combine complexity with novelty and cannot be solved by applying relevant experience. Such problems require explicit, conscious, effortful reasoning to solve.” “Type 2 thinking is required when we need to imagine and compare future consequences of our actions.” So “we defined Type 2 processing as that which (a) engages working memory and (b) involves hypothetical thinking or cognitive decoupling. That is, the ability to reason about possibilities, while ignoring what you know to be actually true.”

“According to two minds theory, the new mind was added to the old, which is still present, so that the two have different mechanisms which may come into conflict.” “Thus the old mind can sometimes frustrate the goals of the new mind.” “As an example, only consequential reasoning and decision making will enable us to save the world from global warming. We cannot learn from the experience of a disaster that lies in the future. Whether we will actually be able to change our established behavior sufficiently based on this reasoning is far from clear.”
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Consciousness
(05-25-2020, 02:37 PM)Alan V Wrote: ...
Defining thinking

“Thinking arises when there is no simple neurological programming or previously learned response that will deal with the current task.  The psychology of thinking deals primarily with novelty.  How do we solve a problem, make a decision, or reason to a conclusion when we have never encountered a task of that kind previously?”  The book summarizes what cognitive psychologists have learned about such questions.
...

And here is the process for this:

[Image: ITIL-v3-Event-managmeent.jpg]

The 'Event Correlation' box is key.  It implies that there is a baseline by which we detect novelty (by comparison).

This baseline is what I consider to be a candidate for what non-AI systems (e.g. humans) might call 'beliefs'. 

Which means that not only do we have a body-schema (a map of 'normal' for the nutrition processor) and an extended body schema (which allows us to zip through gaps in traffic while driving as easily as we dodge other pedestrians while walking) but we also have a mind-schema (a map of normal for the information processor) with the implication that there might be an extended mind-schema which enables us to project 'essence' onto other bodies' minds. 

Fast thinking therefore is akin to (and probably evolved from) the immune system and would involve the following processes:
Monitoring
Event Management 
Incident Management
Problem Management 
Change Management (emergency changes only).

Slow thinking would involve a whole heap of other processes that cover planning, designing, building, testing and (non-emergency) changes.
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Consciousness
(05-27-2020, 06:12 AM)DLJ Wrote: The 'Event Correlation' box is key.  It implies that there is a baseline by which we detect novelty (by comparison).

This baseline is what I consider to be a candidate for what non-AI systems (e.g. humans) might call 'beliefs'. 

Which means that not only do we have a body-schema (a map of 'normal' for the nutrition processor) and an extended body schema (which allows us to zip through gaps in traffic while driving as easily as we dodge other pedestrians while walking) but we also have a mind-schema (a map of normal for the information processor) with the implication that there might be an extended mind-schema which enables us to project 'essence' onto other bodies' minds. 

Fast thinking therefore is akin to (and probably evolved from) the immune system and would involve the following processes:
Monitoring
Event Management 
Incident Management
Problem Management 
Change Management (emergency changes only).

Slow thinking would involve a whole heap of other processes that cover planning, designing, building, testing and (non-emergency) changes.

That's a good summary, but I suspect that even in the best of times, we take shortcuts in our thinking which allow us to lump some real problems into the wrong categories.  Our biggest problem may be our habitual misassessment of situations.
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Consciousness
(05-27-2020, 06:12 AM)DLJ Wrote:
(05-25-2020, 02:37 PM)Alan V Wrote: ...
Defining thinking

“Thinking arises when there is no simple neurological programming or previously learned response that will deal with the current task.  The psychology of thinking deals primarily with novelty.  How do we solve a problem, make a decision, or reason to a conclusion when we have never encountered a task of that kind previously?”  The book summarizes what cognitive psychologists have learned about such questions.
...

And here is the process for this:

[Image: ITIL-v3-Event-managmeent.jpg]

The 'Event Correlation' box is key.  It implies that there is a baseline by which we detect novelty (by comparison).

This baseline is what I consider to be a candidate for what non-AI systems (e.g. humans) might call 'beliefs'. 

Which means that not only do we have a body-schema (a map of 'normal' for the nutrition processor) and an extended body schema (which allows us to zip through gaps in traffic while driving as easily as we dodge other pedestrians while walking) but we also have a mind-schema (a map of normal for the information processor) with the implication that there might be an extended mind-schema which enables us to project 'essence' onto other bodies' minds. 

Fast thinking therefore is akin to (and probably evolved from) the immune system and would involve the following processes:
Monitoring
Event Management 
Incident Management
Problem Management 
Change Management (emergency changes only).

Slow thinking would involve a whole heap of other processes that cover planning, designing, building, testing and (non-emergency) changes.

Oh damn, I LOVE flowcharts. Take me, I'm yours...
Theists disbelieve in all deities but one.  I just disbelieve in one less.
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