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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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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of points from the book Sleep: A Very Short Introduction by Professors Steven Lockley of Harvard Medical School and Russell Foster of the University of Oxford, published in 2012:

In our modern world, “adults, on average, sleep about 7 hours a night, with 5% sleeping fewer than 5 hours, and 6% sleeping more than 9 hours.” But young adults naturally sleep about 8.5 hours and older adults about 7.5 hours, so people are not presently getting as much sleep as they should. This lack of sleep is attributed to a variety of causes, including long work hours, shift work, otherwise busy lives, and electrical lighting.

“Multiple structures within the brainstem are involved in maintaining wakefulness, and the generation of the NREM-REM cycle of sleep.” “There are two distinct types of sleep – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep – which alternate to form a NREM-REM sleep cycle approximately every 90 to 100 minutes.” NREM sleep is divided into various stages. “Stage 1 is typified by theta waves.” Stage 2 has “short bursts of activity called ‘sleep spindles’ and high-amplitude and low-frequency events known as K-complexes.” “Stages 3 and 4 are often called deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) and are characterized by the presence of delta waves. This is the stage when parasomnias such as night terrors, bedwetting, sleep-walking, and sleep-talking occur.” REM sleep has a beta EEG pattern similar to waking, “which is why REM sleep is often called ‘paradoxical sleep.’”

“The proportion of NREM and REM sleep in each cycle changes throughout the night,” with NREM decreasing while REM increases. About 25% of sleep consists of REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming. “Dreaming can occur in both NREM and REM sleep, but dreams in REM tend to be longer, more vivid, complex, and bizarre. Dreams are thought to span most of the REM episode and perhaps as much as 40% of NREM, and occur in real time.”

“If individuals have been blind since birth, dreams are dominated by sound, touch, and emotional feelings. Those who have lost their sight during childhood (around 7-8 years), however, have dreams dominated by visual experiences.”

We are more likely to fall asleep if we have been awake longer (and are more likely to wake up if we have been asleep longer). So we build up a certain amount of “sleep pressure” during waking. If we are deprived of sleep, the amount of our slow-wave sleep increases to compensate.

“There is a 24-hour rhythm in sleep propensity determined by an internal 24-hour clock in the brain,” located in part of the hypothalamus. This circadian system helps regulate sleep as well as metabolic functions, temperature regulation, the release of hormones, insulin level, and other important functions. This system combines with sleep pressure to regulate sleep. Whether you like to wake early or sleep late, your diurnal preference is partly determined by the timing of these processes and “partly encoded in your genes.”

Light exposure affects both the circadian cycle and sleep pressure, to synchronize them with the external world. This is why totally blind people can desynchronise from a 24-hour day. “Inappropriately timed light exposure can therefore disrupt not only sleep and circadian timing but also levels of alertness, performance, and mood.”

“The detrimental effects of chronic sleep loss can quickly become as severe as acute deprivation.” These include “deterioration in reaction time, memory, and cognitive abilities.” REM brain activity can incur into waking in the form of hypnagogic hallucinations. “More serious events include impairment of emotional processing and ultimately psychosis.”

Sleep is a complicated biological process, involving over thirteen brain regions and nine neurotransmitters. I will skip those complicated details.

“The reasons why we sleep remain frustratingly unresolved.” All mammals sleep and all show sleep rebound when sleep deprived. Sleep patterns vary widely across species. For instance, whales and dolphins sleep with only half of their brains at a time, which allows them to swim continually. Brown bats sleep an average of 20 hours a day, opossums 18 hours, infant humans 16 hours, platypuses 14 hours, cats 12 hours, hedgehogs 10 hours, adult humans 8 hours, elderly humans 5.5 hours, and giraffes just 2 hours.

“Researchers argue that sleep should be defined on the basis of EEG alone. Using these criteria, invertebrates do not sleep at all, and the vertebrates fall into four broad categories: (i) species that rest but do not show a clear sleep EEG (fish and amphibians); (ii) species that show NREM sleep only (most reptiles); (iii) species showing NREM and partial REM or short episodes of REM (some reptiles and birds); (iv) species showing robust cycles of REM an NREM sleep (mammals).”

“Three broad theories have dominated the discussion of why animals sleep, namely a process that allows (i) cellular restoration; (ii) energy conservation; and (iii) the consolidation of memory and learning.” “The generalized ‘restorative’ argument for sleep is sharply contradicted by the fact that during REM sleep, the brain is more active than during wake and many parts of the body remain very active – such as the heart.” Calculations of the energy saved by sleep has shown it to be very modest indeed. “Resting conserves almost as much energy as sleep in many species,” and any energy savings would be offset by increased risk of predation in most species. “Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests a strong link between sleep and what has been termed ‘sleep-dependent memory processing’. In many animal studies, sleep deprivation after learning tasks has been shown to impair performance in subsequent tests.”

“The problems with the consolidation of learning and memory hypothesis are three-fold: (i) the theory relates only to those species with a complex brain; (ii) memory and learning can also occur in the absense of sleep; (iii) if sleep evolved simply to allow the formation and consolidation of memory, then one would predict that those animals with the largest and most complex brains would sleep more. Yet the length of inactivity/sleep does not correlate with a complex nervous system.”

“Some researchers argue that the EEG merely represents a measure of essential house-keeping functions of the brain that have been allocated to the rest portion of the rest-activity cycle.”

Human variations:

Sleep during pregnancy: “Most expectant mothers report some sleep disruption, which changes throughout pregnancy.” Those women who suffer from post-partum depression often experience further sleep disruption.

Neonatal sleep: Newborn babies don’t sleep on a stable 24-hour pattern. The 24-hour pattern begins to emerge after 2 to 6 months and stabilizes after 6 to 12 months.

Sleep in children: “Total sleep duration reduces through childhood, with a median sleep duration of 8 to 9 hours by late adolescence.” “Chronic sleep deficiency is likely to exacerbate problem behaviours.”

Sleep in adolescence: Adolescents typically stay awake later and subsequently sleep later into the morning. This pattern correlates closely “with pubertal development.”

Sleep in middle age and menopause: Women typically have “more complaints about sleep than men, despite getting more sleep, including deep sleep, when measured objectively.” In menopause, women suffer from “symptoms that affect sleep including night sweats and mood disorders.”

Sleep in old age: “Many people experience poorer sleep as they get older and accept it as an inevitable result of ageing.” “The prevalence of many medical and psychiatric conditions that affect sleep increases with age, as does medication use. The risk of some sleep disorders is also age-related.” “The circadian ‘window’ for sleep narrow with old age, limiting the duration of time that prolonged, consolidated sleep can be achieved.”

Sleep and dementia: Fifty percent of people 85 and older are affected to whatever extent by dementia. “Ageing and dementia share symptoms of disrupted sleep – wake and rest – activity cycles which in themselves may exacerbate cognitive decline.”

There are around 75 clinical sleep disorders, which fall into eight categories: Insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders, hypersomnia of central origin, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, parasomnias, sleep-related movement disorders, isolated symtoms and normal variants, and other sleep disorders. The number of such disorders underscores the complexity of sleep.

Insomnia: This is the most common complaint. Some people can’t fall asleep, some people can’t stay asleep, and some people wake up to early. “Insomnia is associated with many psychiatric conditions ... and can be associated with other problems such as pain, disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, heartburn, or alcohol and drug abuse.”

Sleep-related breathing disorders: These include obstructive sleep apnea, heavy snoring, and the inability to breath regularly even though the airway remains open.

Hypersomnia of central origin: These are excessive daytime sleepiness, excessive napping, and narcolepsy, with or without cataplexy, due to central disorders of the brain.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: These cause sleep patterns to shift to abnormal times. “Circadian rhythm sleep disorders can be self-induced, environmentally induced, or due to an intrinsic disorder in the circadian organization of sleep.”

Parasomnias: These are “undesirable events that occur ‘alongside sleep’,” such as sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, sleep terrors, nightmares, bedwetting, and groaning. REM behavioral disorders may include “talking and shouting, walking, eating, and even driving, and can include physical or sexual violence.”

Sleep-related movement disorders: These includes restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement.

“Having a clinical sleep disorder affects your health and increases the risk of other diseases.” Lack of appropriate sleep increases the risk for cardiovascular disease (hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks), metabolic disorders like type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It can result in depression, impaired immune response, decreased motor and cognitive performance, impairment of memory and concentration, irritability, weight gain, poor mental health, and even accidents and injuries.

“By missing sleep after learning, the brain misses the opportunity to solidify what has been learned. Similar studies have shown that developing ‘insight’ or higher-level learning also depends on sleep, with different types of learning dependent on different stages of sleep.”

“Many ‘societal’ factors affect our sleep, including children, pets, noise pollution, light pollution, temperature, bed type, pain, daylight saving time, gender, bed partner, diurnal preference, socioeconomic status, work, hobbies, alcohol, drugs and medications, exercise, television, radio, computers, telephones – the list goes on and on.” “With the culture of working long hours, globalization of businesses, and the ever-increasing need for overnight shift-work and flexible working hours, society seems to be conspiring to demote sleep in our list of priorities.”
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Consciousness
(05-27-2020, 10:27 AM)Cavebear Wrote:
(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...

How can "Event Correlation" be a key? There is no decision box there.
Theists disbelieve in all deities but one.  I just disbelieve in one less.
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Consciousness
(06-07-2020, 05:28 AM)Cavebear Wrote: ...
How can "Event Correlation" be a key?  There is no decision box there.

Not "a key".  Key as in important.  

It represents the "simple neurological programming or previously learned response".

Lower down, the "Human Intervention" box represents conscious thought that's triggered by novelty i.e. an event that does not correlate with previous data.
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Consciousness
(06-07-2020, 07:52 AM)DLJ Wrote:
(06-07-2020, 05:28 AM)Cavebear Wrote: ...
How can "Event Correlation" be a key?  There is no decision box there.

Not "a key".  Key as in important.  

It represents the "simple neurological programming or previously learned response".

Lower down, the "Human Intervention" box represents conscious thought that's triggered by novelty i.e. an event that does not correlate with previous data.

If you don't mean "key" don't use the term.
Theists disbelieve in all deities but one.  I just disbelieve in one less.
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Consciousness
(06-07-2020, 09:38 AM)Cavebear Wrote:
(06-07-2020, 07:52 AM)DLJ Wrote:
(06-07-2020, 05:28 AM)Cavebear Wrote: ...
How can "Event Correlation" be a key?  There is no decision box there.

Not "a key".  Key as in important.  

It represents the "simple neurological programming or previously learned response".

Lower down, the "Human Intervention" box represents conscious thought that's triggered by novelty i.e. an event that does not correlate with previous data.

If you don't mean "key" don't use the term.

I meant key.
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Consciousness
@DLJ @Mark @Dānu @Hussein and whoever else might be interested: This book seems more important than most I have read so far, so I have quoted from it more extensively. It's a bit hard to follow, but worth it in the end.

This is my summary of some of the main points from The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Professor of Neuroscience Antonio Damasio, published in 1999.

“At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self. At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life.” To accomplish these goals, consciousness engenders both mental patterns for objects and for a sense of self in the act of knowing. “In that perspective, the presence of you is the feeling of what happens when your being is modified by the acts of apprehending something.”

“In the very least, then, the neurobiology of consciousness faces two problems: the problem of how the movie-in-the-brain is generated, and the problem of how the brain also generates the sense that there is an owner and observer for that movie.” While consciousness is a private, first-person process, external behaviors can be observed by third persons and correlated with subjective reports as well as with brain structures and activation. The neural basis of the mind can also be studied by correlating brain damage to deficits in function. Knowledge of the nervous system has greatly expanded due to the research of “experimental neuroanatomists, neurophysiologists, neuropharmacologists, and neurobiologists.” Such observations form the basis of the ideas presented in this book. We have come a long way in “discovering the neural architecture which supports consciousness.”

Here are several facts which are supported by such studies:

1) “Some aspects of the processes of consciousness can be related to the operation of specific brain regions and systems.”

2) “Consciousness and wakefulness, as well as consciousness and low-level attention, can be separated.”

3) “Consciousness and emotion are not separable.” “The connection between emotion and consciousness, on the one hand, and between both of these and the body, on the other, form a main theme of this book.”

4) “Consciousness is not a monolith.” The author makes an important discrimination between core consciousness and extended consciousness, which will be discussed in detail below. “The neurological evidence makes the separation transparent.”

5) Although consciousness is often explained in terms of attention, language, memory, and reason, these things are required for extended consciousness to operate normally. They are not required for core consciousness.

6) Therefore, a theory of consciousness should not just be about how information is processed and integrated, it must explain core consciousness.

“Core consciousness provides the organism with a sense of self about one moment – now – and about one place – here.” “In short, core consciousness is a simple, biological phenomenon; it has one single level of organization; it is stable across the lifetime of the organism; it is not exclusively human; and it is not dependent on conventional memory, working memory, reasoning, or language.”

“On the other hand, the complex kind of consciousness, which I call extended consciousness and of which there are many levels and grades, provides the organism with an elaborate sense of self – an identity and a person, you or me, no less – and places that person at a point in individual historical time, richly aware of the lived past and of the anticipated future, and keenly cognizant of the world beside it.” This is a distinctively human form of consciousness. Extended consciousness creates the autobiographical self through autobiographical memories.

“The fine scalpel of neurological disease reveals that impairments of extended consciousness allow core consciousness to remain unscathed. By contrast, impairments that begin at the level of core consciousness demolish the entire edifice of consciousness: extended consciousness collapses as well.”

The processes involved in creating extended consciousness, though detailed and not fully understood, are largely understandable. How the brain creates core consciousness remains the more challenging problem, and it is the one the author tackles.

“Only a narrow range of body states is compatible with life, and the organism is genetically designed to main that narrow range and equipped to seek it, through thick and through thin.” “That stable state is governed from the brain by means of an elaborate neural machinery designed to detect minimal variations in the parameters of the body’s internal chemical profile and to command actions aimed at correcting the detected variations, directly or indirectly.” The author calls this nonconscious homeostatic machinery the proto-self, and considers it the forerunner for the later conscious elaborations of the core self and the autobiographical self. “Survival in a complex environment, that is, efficient management of life regulation, depends on taking the right action, and that, in turn, can be greatly improved by purposeful preview and manipulation of images in mind and optimal planning. Consciousness allowed the connection of the two disparate aspects of the process – inner life regulation and image making.” In other words, consciousness originally grew out of and is a part of the homeostatic processes that enable life.

“I suspect that in earlier stages of evolution these states – including all of those we classify as emotions – were entirely unknown to the organisms producing them. The states were regulatory and that was enough.” “The potential and rightful owner of each individual life had no knowledge that life existed because nature had not invented an owner yet. There was being but not knowing. Consciousness had not begun.”

“Without exception, men and women of all ages, of all cultures, of all levels of education, and of all walks of economic life have emotions, are mindful of the emotions of others, cultivate pastimes that manipulate their emotions, and govern their lives in no small part by the pursuit of one emotion, happiness, and the avoidance of unpleasant emotions.” The author’s emphasis on the bodily and emotional basis of consciousness requires him to stipulate somewhat altered definitions to make several important distinctions. “For the purpose of investigating these phenomena, I separate three stages of processing along a continuum: a state of emotion, which can be triggered and executed nonconsciously; a state of feeling, which can be represented nonconsciously; and a state of feeling made conscious, i.e., known to the organism having both emotion and feeling.” “In short, consciousness must be present if feelings are to influence the subject having them beyond the immediate here and now.” “Feelings perform their ultimate and longer-lasting effects in the theater of the conscious mind.”

“Emotions are part and parcel of the regulation we call homeostatis. It is senseless to discuss them without understanding that aspect of living organisms and vice versa. In this book, I propose that homeostasis is a key to the biology of consciousness.” “Work from my laboratory has shown that emotion is integral to the processes of reasoning and decision making, for worse and for better.” “Selective reduction of emotion is at least as prejudicial for rationality as excessive emotion.” “The engines of reason still require emotion, which means that the controlling power of reason is often modest.” “We can educate our emotions but not suppress them entirely, and the feelings we have inside are a testimony to our lack of success.”

Primary or universal emotions include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Secondary or social emotions include embarrassment, jealousy, guilt, and pride. Background emotions include “fatigue, energy, excitement, wellness, sickness, tension, relaxation, surging, dragging, stability, instability, balance, imbalance, harmony, and discord”. “The label emotion has also been attached to drives and motivations and to the states of pain and pleasure.” “All emotions have some kind of regulatory role to play, leading in one way or another to the creation of circumstances advantageous to the organism exhibiting the phenomenon.” “Emotions are part of the bioregulatory devices with which we come equipped to survive.” They produce specific reactions as well as regulate the internal state so that it is prepared for specific reactions, through coordinated chemical and neural commands. “You should imagine this component as sandwiched between the basic survival kit (i.e., regulation of metabolism; simple reflexes; motivations; biology of pain and pleasure) and the devices of high reason, but still very much a part of the hierarchy of life-regulation devices.”

Conditioning often results in associating certain emotions with certain objects of perception. “Emotions can be caused by the same stimulus that causes pain, but they are a different result from that same cause.”

“Beyond emotion ... two additional steps must take place before an emotion is known. The first is feeling, the imaging of the changes. The second is the application of core consciousness to the entire set of phenomena. Knowing an emotion – feeling the feeling – only occurs at that point.” “For an organism to know that it has a feeling, it is necessary to add the process of consciousness in the aftermath of the processes of emotion and feeling.”

“The substrate for the representation of emotions is a collection of neural dispositions in a number of brain regions located largely in subcortical nuclei of the brain stem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and amygdala.”

“It may be helpful to think of the behavior of an organism as the performance of an orchestral piece whose score is being invented at it goes along. Just as the music you hear is the result of many groups of instruments playing together in time, the behavior of an organisms is the result of several biological systems performing concurrently.”

“Wakefulness and consciousness tend to go together” except in dreaming and certain neurological conditions. “When wakefulness is removed, dream sleep aside, consciousness is removed.” Similarly, “presence of attention toward an external object usually signifies the presence of consciousness.” “My view is that both consciousness and attention occur in levels and grades, they are not monoliths.”

“Epileptic automatisms can be like a scalpel and separate consciousness from the things that are in consciousness.” Events during seizures are not committed to memory. Sufferers have no core or autobiographical selves during seizures, even though they show signs of wakefulness. “I venture that absence of emotion is a reliable correlate of defective core consciousness, perhaps as much as the presence of some degree of continuous emoting is virtually always associated with the conscious state.” “Emotions and core consciousness tend to go together, in the literal sense, by being present together or absent together.” “Impairments of extended consciousness are not accompanied by a breakdown of emotion.”

Another form of impaired consciousness is akinetic mutism, which also disrupts core consciousness while preserving wakefulness and minimal attention and behavior. Absence seizures and persistent vegetative state disrupt core consciousness but preserve wakefulness with defective minimal attention and behavior. “Coma, the transient loss of consciousness caused by head injury or fainting, deep (dreamless) sleep, and deep anesthesia result in both the disruption of core consciousness and wakefulness.” “The typical site of dysfunction is in structures of the upper brain stem, hypothalamus, and thalamus. The control of sleep and wakefulness resides in the same general region, and the action of several anesthetics is known to take place in that region too.”

“In every instance I know, patients with major language impairments remain awake and attentive and can behave purposefully.” So language contributes to extended rather than to core consciousness. Similarly, core consciousness requires only a “very brief, short-term memory.” “The results of neurological disease validate the distinction between core consciousness and extended consciousness.” “It is possible to separate consciousness in general from functions such as wakefulness, low-level attention, working memory, conventional memory, language, and reasoning.” “All of these different aspects of cognition ... can be separated by appropriate analysis and investigated separately in spite of the fact that they operate together, in perfect concert with consciousness, as a most harmonious and virtuoso ensemble.”

However, emotion and core consciousness are clearly associated and seem to depend on the same brain structures. “Disturbances of core consciousness target the entire realm of mental activity as well as the full range of sensory modalities.” “The impairment of core consciousness leaves no island of preserved consciousness.” Core consciousness influences all aspects of extended consciousness. “The removal of core consciousness, except for those situations in which it is caused by sleep or anesthesia, is a sign of disease.”

The author advances “the possibility that the part of the mind we call self was, biologically speaking, grounded on a collection of nonconscious neural patterns standing for the part of the organism we call the body proper.” “Consciousness is an important property of living organisms and it may be helpful to include life in its discussion. Consciousness certainly appears to postdate both life and the basic devices that allow organisms to maintain life, and in all likelihood, consciousness has succeeded in evolution precisely because it supports life most beautifully.” “It is intriguing to think that the constancy of the internal milieu is essential to maintain life and that it might be a blueprint and anchor for what will eventually become a self in the mind.”

“Complex organisms placed in complex environments require large repertoires of knowledge, the possibility of choosing among many available responses, the ability to construct novel combinations of response, and the ability to plan ahead so as to avoid disadvantageous situations and instead propitiate favorable ones. The machinery needed to perform these demanding tasks is complicated and requires a nervous system. It requires a vast stock of dispositions, a substantial part of which must be provided by the genome and be innate, although some dispositions can be modified by learning and additional stocks of dispositions can be acquired through experience.”

“I propose that the sense of self has a preconscious biological precedent, the proto-self, and that the earliest and simplest manifestations of self emerge when the mechanism which generates core consciousness operates on that nonconscious precursor.” “We are not conscious of the proto-self. Language is not part of the structure of the proto-self. The proto-self has no powers of perception and holds no knowledge.”

“Consciousness, as we shall see, only arises when the object, the organism, and their relations, can be re-represented.” “Core consciousness occurs when the brain’s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism’s processing of an object.” “You know you exist because the narrative exhibits you as protagonist in the act of knowing.” We remember these accounts, and so autobiographical memories build up the autobiographical self. “Unlike the core self, which inheres as a protagonist of the primordial account, and unlike the proto-self, which is a current representation of the state of the organism, the autobiographical self is based on a concept in the true cognitive and neurobiological sense of the term.”

“The hypothesis states that core consciousness occurs when the brain forms an image, non-verbal, second-order account of how the organism is causally affect by the processing of an object. The imaged account is based on second-order neural patterns generated from structures capable of receiving signals from other maps which represent both the organism (the proto-self) and the object.”

“If core consciousness is the indispensable foundation of consciousness, extended consciousness is its glory. When we think of the greatness of consciousness we have extended consciousness in mind. When we slip and say that consciousness is a distinctively human quality, we are thinking of extended consciousness at its highest reaches, not of core consciousness.” “Extended consciousness goes beyond the here and now of core consciousness, both backward and forward.” “Extended consciousness can make you a character in an epic novel.” It is based on our abilities to remember and recall our memories.

People who suffer from transient global amnesia lose recent memories from their autobiographical memories, usually for a period no longer than a few hours to a day. They don’t remember where they are or what they were doing, though they usually don’t ask who they are. They retain core consciousness. Alzheimer’s disease slowly extinguishes extended consciousness, well in advance of the subsequent collapse of core consciousness.

“Anosognosia provides another good example of impaired extended consciousness without impairment of core consciousness.” “The classic example of anosognosia is that of a victim of stroke, entirely paralyzed in the left side of the body, unable to move hand and arm, leg and foot, face half immobile, unable to stand or walk, who remains oblivious to the entire problem, and who reports that nothing is possibly the matter.” “This inability to sense the defect automatically, rapidly, and internally through the body’s sensory system is nothing less than astounding, while the inability to learn about the defect after repeated confrontation is even more so.”

“The idea each of us constructs of ourself, the image we gradually build of who we are physically and mental, of where we fit socially, is based on autobiographical memory over years of experience and is constantly subject to remodeling.” “Unlike the core self, much will occur in the development and maturation of autobiographical memory that is not just dependent on, but is even regulated by, the environment.”

“The nonconscious neural signaling of an individual organism begets the proto-self which permits core self and core consciousness, which allow for an autobiographical self, which permits extended consciousness. At the end of the chain, extended consciousness permits conscience.”

The author discusses at some length the brain science which supports his scheme. “We have long known with some certainty that the presence of consciousness depends on the integrity of the brain stem.” “The brain nuclei primarily concerned with managing the life process and representing the organism are closely contiguous to, and even interconnected with, nuclei concerned with the process of wakefulness and sleep, with emotion and attention, and ultimately with consciousness.” The brain structures which support core consciousness are discrete from those which support extended consciousness. “Consciousness does depend most critically on regions that are evolutionarily older, rather than more recent.” “What is not so old, evolutionarily speaking, is the extension of consciousness that has been allowed by memory, first, by permitting us to establish an autobiographical record; second, by giving us a broad record of other facts; and third, by endowing us with the holding power of working memory.”

“The proto-self, feelings of emotion, and the feelings of knowing feelings emerged at different points in evolution and to this day emerge at different stages of individual development. Proto-self precedes basic feeling and both precede the feeling of knowing that constitute core consciousness.” “Knowing is the stepping stone for the process of planning specific and nonstereotyped responses.”

“There is a growing agreement among those who think about the problem of consciousness that consciousness is valuable and that it prevailed in evolution because of that value.” “Why is consciousness beneficial? Might we have been equally successful as living creatures without knowing that we have feelings?” The answer depends on “a consideration of the powers and limits of unconscious processing.”

“The lack of dependence on conscious survey automates a substantial part of our behavior and frees us in terms of attention and time – two scarce commodities in our lives – to plan and execute other tasks and create solutions for new problems. Automation is also of great value in expert motor performances.”

“The conscious component extends the reach and efficacy of the nonconscious system. Consciousness allows the player to discover if the strategy is correct and, in case it is not, to correct the strategy.” “Consciousness is valuable because it introduces a new means of achieving homeostasis.” “I am referring to a new means of solving different kinds of problems that are connected, nonetheless, to the problems solved by previously existing means of homeostatic regulation.” “A fact compatible with this conclusion is the mismatch between the demands of the environment and the degree to which organisms can cope with these demands by means of automated and stereotyped devices.”

“Evidence for the value of consciousness comes from considering the results of even its mildest impairments. When the mental aspect of self is suspended, the advantages of consciousness soon disappear. Individual life regulation is no longer possible in a complex environment.”

“Consciousness feels like a feeling, and if it feels like a feeling, it may well be a feeling.” “The secret of making consciousness may well be this: that the plotting of a relationship between any object and the organism becomes the feeling of a feeling. The mysterious first-person perspective of consciousness consists of newly-minted knowledge, information if you will, expressed as feeling. Presenting the roots of consciousness as feelings allows one to glean an explanation for the sense of self, the second of the two problems of consciousness.”

“Feelings cannot be duplicated unless flesh is duplicated, unless the brain’s actions on flesh are duplicated, unless the brain’s sensing of flesh after it has been acted upon by the brain is duplicated.”
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(06-22-2020, 03:06 PM)Alan V Wrote: @DLJ @Mark @Dānu @Hussein and whoever else might be interested: This book seems more important than most I have read so far, so I have quoted from it more extensively.  It's a bit hard to follow, but worth it in the end.

This is my summary of some of the main points from The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Professor of Neuroscience Antonio Damasio, published in 1999.

“At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self.  At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life.”  To accomplish these goals, consciousness engenders both mental patterns for objects and for a sense of self in the act of knowing.  “In that perspective, the presence of you is the feeling of what happens when your being is modified by the acts of apprehending something.”

“In the very least, then, the neurobiology of consciousness faces two problems: the problem of how the movie-in-the-brain is generated, and the problem of how the brain also generates the sense that there is an owner and observer for that movie.”  While consciousness is a private, first-person process, external behaviors can be observed by third persons and correlated with subjective reports as well as with brain structures and activation.  The neural basis of the mind can also be studied by correlating brain damage to deficits in function.  Knowledge of the nervous system has greatly expanded due to the research of “experimental neuroanatomists, neurophysiologists, neuropharmacologists, and neurobiologists.”  Such observations form the basis of the ideas presented in this book.  We have come a long way in “discovering the neural architecture which supports consciousness.”

Here are several facts which are supported by such studies:

1) “Some aspects of the processes of consciousness can be related to the operation of specific brain regions and systems.”

2) “Consciousness and wakefulness, as well as consciousness and low-level attention, can be separated.”

3) “Consciousness and emotion are not separable.”  “The connection between emotion and consciousness, on the one hand, and between both of these and the body, on the other, form a main theme of this book.”

4) “Consciousness is not a monolith.”  The author makes an important discrimination between core consciousness and extended consciousness, which will be discussed in detail below.  “The neurological evidence makes the separation transparent.”

5) Although consciousness is often explained in terms of attention, language, memory, and reason, these things are required for extended consciousness to operate normally.  They are not required for core consciousness.

6) Therefore, a theory of consciousness should not just be about how information is processed and integrated, it must explain core consciousness.

“Core consciousness provides the organism with a sense of self about one moment – now – and about one place – here.”  “In short, core consciousness is a simple, biological phenomenon; it has one single level of organization; it is stable across the lifetime of the organism; it is not exclusively human; and it is not dependent on conventional memory, working memory, reasoning, or language.”

“On the other hand, the complex kind of consciousness, which I call extended consciousness and of which there are many levels and grades, provides the organism with an elaborate sense of self – an identity and a person, you or me, no less – and places that person at a point in individual historical time, richly aware of the lived past and of the anticipated future, and keenly cognizant of the world beside it.”  This is a distinctively human form of consciousness.  Extended consciousness creates the autobiographical self through autobiographical memories.

“The fine scalpel of neurological disease reveals that impairments of extended consciousness allow core consciousness to remain unscathed.  By contrast, impairments that begin at the level of core consciousness demolish the entire edifice of consciousness: extended consciousness collapses as well.”

The processes involved in creating extended consciousness, though detailed and not fully understood, are largely understandable.  How the brain creates core consciousness remains the more challenging problem, and it is the one the author tackles.

“Only a narrow range of body states is compatible with life, and the organism is genetically designed to main that narrow range and equipped to seek it, through thick and through thin.”  “That stable state is governed from the brain by means of an elaborate neural machinery designed to detect minimal variations in the parameters of the body’s internal chemical profile and to command actions aimed at correcting the detected variations, directly or indirectly.”  The author calls this nonconscious homeostatic machinery the proto-self, and considers it the forerunner for the later conscious elaborations of the core self and the autobiographical self.  “Survival in a complex environment, that is, efficient management of life regulation, depends on taking the right action, and that, in turn, can be greatly improved by purposeful preview and manipulation of images in mind and optimal planning.  Consciousness allowed the connection of the two disparate aspects of the process – inner life regulation and image making.”  In other words, consciousness originally grew out of and is a part of the homeostatic processes that enable life.

“I suspect that in earlier stages of evolution these states – including all of those we classify as emotions – were entirely unknown to the organisms producing them.  The states were regulatory and that was enough.”  “The potential and rightful owner of each individual life had no knowledge that life existed because nature had not invented an owner yet.  There was being but not knowing.  Consciousness had not begun.”

Still have the rest to go but I have my brother coming for our first visit in three months so will have to save the rest for later.  This is addressing the right stuff IMO.
"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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Very intriguing. I've sent away for my copy. I think I will need a less condensed version in order to get more from it. But your as usual concise notes make it plain that it will likely be worth the read. Turns out Lia knows the author and has heard him speak. I've printed out your notes so she can read them at her leisure. Thanks for sharing!
"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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(06-23-2020, 06:32 AM)Mark Wrote: Very intriguing.  I've sent away for my copy.  I think I will need a less condensed version in order to get more from it.  But your as usual concise notes make it plain that it will likely be worth the read.  Turns out Lia knows the author and has heard him speak.  I've printed out your notes so she can read them at her leisure.  Thanks for sharing!

It's a rather long book, but the author included a fair number of very interesting case studies to support his perspectives.
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@Alan V

This is excellent.  So very close to what I've been describing (so yeah, I'm biased in favour of anything that supports my own writings).
Thank you very much for your effort in summarising it. 

I would quibble slightly with the implication here... 

(06-22-2020, 03:06 PM)Alan V Wrote: ...
“The nonconscious neural signaling of an individual organism begets the proto-self which permits core self and core consciousness, which allow for an autobiographical self, which permits extended consciousness.  At the end of the chain, extended consciousness permits conscience.”
...

... that extended consciousness (or 'governance' in my model) is a prerequisite to conscience.  If 'pricking one's conscience' is about 'a feeling of wrong (not right), i.e. a sense of inbalance / disharmony' then its antecedent is our centre of gravity and a sense of dizziness which later correlates with our reasoning / ethics software/apps.  

Anyway, as an aside, have you read Jonathan Haidt's, The Righteous Mind ?  If so, you'll be familiar with his analogy of the Elephant Rider and the Elephant.  This is akin to Damasio's Extended Consciousness and Core Consciousness respectively.  In previous posts I've referred to these two as Governance and Operations (also respectively) but a subtle omission from Haidt's analogy is the whip - or more generally speaking, the management tools used to incentivise / penalise the elephant.  Hence, looking at it as three layers not two (with the usual caveat regarding using categories for something that has evolved along a continuum) can bring greater illumination. Thus, it's GMO (Governance, Management, Operations) from a top-down design-perspective and/or OMG (Operations, Management, Governance) from a bottom-up evolution-perspective.    

(06-22-2020, 03:06 PM)Alan V Wrote: ...
“Consciousness feels like a feeling, and if it feels like a feeling, it may well be a feeling.”  “The secret of making consciousness may well be this: that the plotting of a relationship between any object and the organism becomes the feeling of a feeling.  The mysterious first-person perspective of consciousness consists of newly-minted knowledge, information if you will, expressed as feeling.  Presenting the roots of consciousness as feelings allows one to glean an explanation for the sense of self, the second of the two problems of consciousness.”
...

Nice.  

In other words, in a three-layer model, consciousness is our monitoring system's monitoring system's monitoring system.

Cheers
DLJ
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Consciousness
I have most certainly not read as extensively as Alan on this topic but one theme I keep encountering in people writing about consciousness is that it is inherently "embodied", that is, anything that would be familiar to us as consciousness is intimately connected to a physical body and its senses. It strikes me that Damasio is saying in part that emotions are responses to the perceived (un)pleasantness of one's experience of the body's responses to the environment and that emotions give meaning to experience. With the addition of mirror neurons, they also give relevance and interest to the experiences of others.

Characters in fiction like Mr Spock in Star Trek or various depictions of sentient computers assume that emotion is an extra and probably superfluous feature that in many ways a thinker would be better off not being troubled by, but it may be that emotion is so integral to curiosity and intelligence and social interaction that our species at least would never have evolved this far without it. Most higher animals appear to have emotions, even if usually simpler and more crudely regulated than in (some) humans. I am not aware of any mammals that are without emotion at least. Sometimes rather surprisingly sophisticated. One of our dogs, we're convinced, has doggie-level existential angst. Kind of like the cartoon with a dog staring off into the sunset and asking itself, "what if I never figure out who's a good boy?"

I find this concept fascinating because my wife and I both often remark on how emotionally blunted we have come to feel through various unsalubrious life experiences, and yet, if I look objectively at our interactions just today alone, it involved a cacophony of emotions, just not so readily biased toward optimism and rainbows and unicorns, and probably not as connected to self-awareness. In part I suppose this is the tendency of the elderly to become irascible. We strive against it, with mixed results.
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Consciousness
(07-07-2020, 01:40 AM)mordant Wrote: One theme I keep encountering in people writing about consciousness is that it is inherently "embodied", that is, anything that would be familiar to us as consciousness is intimately connected to a physical body and its senses. It strikes me that Damasio is saying in part that emotions are responses to the perceived (un)pleasantness of one's experience of the body's responses to the environment and that emotions give meaning to experience. With the addition of mirror neurons, they also give relevance and interest to the experiences of others.

Consciousness evolved as another means to serve the interests of the body.  It is considered homeostatic in its own ways, including in social ways.  The struggle for balance is always on-going.

Our brains are kluged, with one system built on top of another evolutionarily.  In many cases, we experience internal conflicts because of this messy arrangement.

Damasio emphasized a necessary balance of emotions to best serve the interests of the body as well as to focus consciousness appropriately.  Emotional disinterest is as bad in its own way as disproportionate emotions.
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