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  • Franklin

    October 26, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    I would be clearly in the “no” camp as I see photons as a wave phenomenon. I think the photon structure is a wavefront in the shape of something like a rod. The wavefront is what you see crashing on the beach, but instead of a continuous wavefront, the photon has some finite width and contains a quantized amount of energy. The orientation of the wavefront accounts for the transverse polarization component. That’s just how I see it.

  • Franklin

    October 3, 2020 at 2:24 am

    Well, no, I don’t experience consciousness like that at all. In fact, I have no idea what you are talking about. All of that guru pie in the sky stuff just doesn’t cut it with me. I take the exact opposite stance which is to say that thinking is done in language. Language is what allows the complex thinking that only humans can do using a language and is indispensable for that process.

    I would prefer we have a discussion about that could work. That may lead to the production of systems which can be emulated in a computer and allow the creation of a truly sentient and conscious mind. This would be a mind which we could not distinguish from our own and can communicate like any normal person.

    Yoga will not lead us to enlightenment in this area.

  • Franklin

    September 30, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    This is why I emphasize as the topic of this discussion – what is “human” consciousness. Not what is dog consciousness or plant consciousness or any other kind of intelligent thinking processes.

    So, yes, you are correct that I think that you are “specialer” if you use words in your thought processes. Indeed, we are obviously special in that respect. I want to set aside that special kind of consciousness that only appears to happen in humans as “human consciousness”.

    Now if you want to assign the word “consciousness” to anything that performs intelligent activities, I can’t stop you. But you might as well assign consciousness to your cell phone. I personally disagree with that.

    Maybe that is what bugs me the most about these consciousness researchers is that they try so hard to make the argument that humans are not special – which is what you seem to want to do. So you concentrate your efforts on all of these non-human or non-linguistic intelligent tasks which is totally not interesting at all.

    As for me, I am in interested in “human consciousness” – the internal monologue that only humans have which uses a very complex natural language vocabulary. If you’re not interested in that, then I’d say you were in the wrong business.

    Specifically in terms of your reply:

    “I see consciousness as happening in concepts. Not letters, or digits or pictures. All of those are just methods of cataloging the underlying concepts.

    It is the concepts that are important. Not the cataloging.

    It is the content of the books. Not the cards that tell you where to find them, that are the “concepts that make consciousness”.

    If you’re talking about a “dog” or a “monkey” that is certainly how it works. If you are talking about people, then we can assign concepts which we initially perceive through our senses to particular language tokens such as “car” and “blue”. We can then manipulate these tokens to string together new concepts such as “the car is blue”. If we ask the question “what color is my car”, we can retrieve the answer by referring to “the car is blue” as a matter of just manipulating the tokens of the language. In this way the “cataloging” becomes very important as a way of permanently keeping track and retrieving of complex abstract concepts. If you think only concepts are important, then this would be like a library, but with no card catalog to be able to quickly find and use what you need. I would disagree with you in that human consciousness is more like the direct manipulation of the card catalog in order to draw information from the vast storehouse of the library in an efficient manner. The card catalog is the actual medium through which consciousness happens. We don’t directly manipulate the concepts, but we directly manipulate the words in the language in our mind. That is why we “hear” the internal monologue doing its thing of constantly manipulating the symbols of the language to relate abstract concepts.

    I would say your definition of consciousness as only being concepts is just plainly wrong. It is too wide and I think it wrongly includes animals IMHO. It definitely doesn’t explain how “human consciousness” works.

    So, that is why the topic of this thread is “human consciousness” – not animal kingdom consciousness. Humans are “specialer” (in your terms). We go well beyond what dogs and cats can do, so can we discuss that – how humans work?

  • Franklin

    September 28, 2020 at 2:17 am

    I would certainly disagree with you that thinking in pictures is a “higher” level of thought. It is clearly a “lower” level of thought which all animals likely possesses. That all intelligent animals possess such a thinking method makes it the lower base level of thought processes. The things you can come up with like the DNA structure is fantastic, but that doesn’t rank it as a higher level of thought.

    Your response once again tries desperately to discount or practically eliminate the role of language in conscious thought by bringing up some counterexamples. Instead of asking how thinking could proceed using language as the medium, you haul out yet another tired and irrelevant example of thinking that doesn’t require language.

    Let me make it clear that I think there is a clear confusion between what we call “thinking” and what we call “consciousness”. All forms of “thinking” are NOT “consciousness”. It is pretty clear that you and other researchers bring up all these non-linguistic thought processes and you somehow misleadingly call that “consciousness” when that has absolutely nothing to do with the novel experience that people have when they hear their internal monologue in a human language – which I think is what most people really mean when they ask the question of “What is consciousness”? They’re not taking about monkeys, dogs and cats, they are talking about people and that voice they hear in their head when they are making complex decisions. But you and other researchers literally talk about monkeys, dogs and cats.

    I think that people just immediately go up in arms when I start suggesting that human thinking requires the use of the language. They seem to think that I only think that “thinking” can happen with the use of language. That is why they then immediately bring up all these edge case counterexamples of thinking processes which clearly do not involve any linguistic ability. But none of those things have anything to do with how the vast majority of regular people think and make decisions. Nothing.

    So it is extremely frustrating for me to see all the researchers in this field crowd around this idea that you can completely disregard language as the medium or the “currency” (as I call it in my paper) of thought. So instead of trying to see how that might work and asking questions about how that could arise on a pile of random neurons and make real progress towards emulating that on something like a computer, you instead drag up yet another irrelevant counterexample of non-linguistic thought. Sure, there is non-linguistic types of thought, but that is DEFININTELY not how people who possess complex natural languages operate. But everyone keeps going down this dead-end non-linguistics approach. It is almost as if you deliberately don’t want to understand how consciousness works by only looking at these non-linguistic approaches.

  • Franklin

    September 27, 2020 at 4:09 am

    I think it is very important to stick with “how most people think” rather than get distracted by rare edge cases like you describe. Clearly, if a human was raised by wolves, they could act intelligently to stay out of danger and feed themselves. Language is not required to do that. All animals are able to do that. But only humans use this extremely wide range of vocalizations which allows the encoding and transmission of very abstract concepts. While we humans don’t have to use that, I think we have become extremely dependent upon that mode of thinking in words, to the point where we have this constant self monologue going on in our heads constantly. I think that this is what most people refer to as “consciousness”. Mixing that up with lower level non-linguistic intelligent behavior is just a distraction having nothing to do with what most people would call consciousness. As I mentioned in the previous post, using examples like this to deny the role of language in consciousness is not productive. Although, this is exactly what most “experts” in the field of consciousness do. They spend all their time and experiments on showing how you can do “thinking” without using language and utterly ignore the topic of how you can use language to do thinking. This completely backwards in my opinion. I am just trying to turn the tide on this backwards and nonproductive line of research in consciousness.

  • Franklin

    September 27, 2020 at 3:49 am

    I would absolutely assert that animals have NO internal dialog which is similar to what people use. I know that people like to point stuff like this out and try to deliberately stomp out the role of language in consciousness, but I think this is completely wrong. Let me be clear, the ability to think intelligently and make decisions is absolutely common in all life forms. But when we talk of “human” consciousness (which is what I think we are really interested in), this totally depends upon the unique (in the animal world) complex spoken language that only humans use.

    Now there are some edge cases like George points out with people who think in pictures. Probably most animals think in this manner so that that when the cat is “thinking” about how to make the jump, they are imagining the various possible outcomes in visual terms. But they are not thinking something in their mind like “If I jump and knock over the vase and make my owner mad.” That is only something the humans do and they do it exclusively through a language process.

    I think this entire line of reasoning of trying to assign a human like consciousness to animals is just wrong because it takes the attention away from what we normally call human consciousness and mixes is up with things like plants turning to the sun and calling that “consciousness”. I know you’re saying “but animals can think!” – I am not debating that. I am telling you that humans think in a very different way than animals. You and all others like you are trying so hard to deny that. By denying it, you make it totally impossible to understand how humans use language to create human consciousness by denying the very critical role of language. It is like trying to learn the piano, but first being told that you can’t use your hands.

    Why do you deny the role of language in conscious thinking? Isn’t it obvious that it is that internal monologue is a full blown discussion with yourself that allows you to solve problems the same way you would by talking to someone? There is no real difference whether you talk to yourself or someone else to solve or think about problems.

    And NO, trained animals don’t have range of language tokens that people do. Maybe they can handle a few dozen at most, not the nearly 30,000 words of a native speaker. What they can do is still very simple monkey see, monkey do or simple parotting. These are very minor edge cases and do not come close to matching the thinking ability exhibited by humans by using languages such as English.

    So, clearly NO, animals do not have an internal dialog like people do. As a result, what they can think about is extremely limited compared to what humans can do. Can you imagine a cat reciting the concepts in even this paragraph?

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