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Switch to Forum Live View Consciousness is an individual product of a biological organism?
2 years ago  ::  May 10, 2012 - 2:58AM #1
markom
Posts: 29

This is the place to give a definition to consciousness first of all. Conscious means a state of being aware, which comes from the Latin base word scire (sciō) meaning "to know" or "knowledge". Other derived words from scire are science and conscience. On the other side Greek counterpart for the verb "to know" is gnosis en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosis, which has a very probable root on Sanskrit word jnana (gñāna). I'm lifting this up to show that traced meaning of the word we use here has a pretty mystical background. And perhaps by this reason, we give consciousness a very mysterious meaning, like a magic soup that is flowing in us, our brains or in the world around us. I'd like to take a different point and view the mystery of the word coming partly from the "everlasting and doomed" efforts to define something that has no clear objective by limited and mixed words AND stubborn way we want to maintain the mystery for the word. Mystery itself is kept because of three reasons:


  1. 1st we experience ourselves as a self-conscious persons (strong)
  2. 2nd religious and cultural teachings coming from the environment where we live in (medium)
  3. 3rd philosophical discussions about definitions that becomes pointless by the nature of logic based on language (weak)


I will go little deeper only to the first point. 2nd is the burden we get away pretty easily by education and 3rd is not so important thou it could raise a whole new topic to explain and prove what I mean with it.


First case relates to mind, soul, Spirit and awareness topic. Until it is empirically proved that conscious exists outside of the person (brains) itself, there are no reasons assume otherwise. Its true there are a lot of stories in west (miracles, clairvoyance, OBE, near death experiences and so forth) and east (sadhus and yogis, meditation and monks) that gives interesting material for research, plus modern theories on quantum field gives new dimensions, but we still stick on open questions. No definite proofs has been provided that soul, spirit, mind or consciousness exists but in our body only.


I say in our body, because I cannot deny that we experience consciousness, being aware of self (I am) nevertheless. Explanation for this comes from purely biological perspective. Sensory (five senses) system attached to a complicated electro-chemical neural network memory called brains gives an illusion of self-awareness by recursive and predictive signal transmission.


Inner talk, imagining, day and night dreams, all are reflections of memory signaling back and forward on brain and sensory system interface. This is nicely explained on Jeff Hawking's "On Intelligence" book, chapter 7 "Consciousness and Creativity": www.onintelligence.org/ Topic is blogged on: brianandrewsauthor.com/2012/02/08/on-int... for example. In a way western and eastern mystics, that say the world and (some dare even to say) also the very self itself is Maya (illusion), are correct. They may add some other extensions to the fact, like oneness and bliss that can be experienced in spite of Maya. But they are not really proof of conscious being other than single mind product in a single person body.


Now from this point of view the characteristics of consciousness are subjective, memory dependant, temporal and changing, illusive, yet developing to some extend we don't really know yet.


And yes, the word consciousness is very fundamental and practical to discuss on topic like this. It would be almost impossible to replace it with other descriptive word and still maintain focus and be understandable.

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2 years ago  ::  May 10, 2012 - 4:17PM #2
newchurchguy
Posts: 3,491

well very interesting - and I thank you for the links


I found this review of Hawking's book


"Jeff Hawkins has written an original, thought-provoking and, with the help of Sandra Blakeslee, remarkably readable book that presents a new theory of the functions of the cerebral cortex in perception, cognition, action and intelligence. What is distinctive about his theory is the original way existing ideas about the cerebral cortex and its architecture have been combined and elaborated based on an extensive knowledge of how the brain works - what Hawkins calls Real Intelligence in contrast to computer-based Artificial Intelligence. As a result, this book is a must-read for everyone who is curious about the brain and wonders how it works. Many sections of this book, especially those on intelligence, creativity and minds of silicon, are so thoughtful and original that they are likely to be required reading for college undergraduates for years to come." - Eric R. Kandel, professor, Columbia University, senior investigator, Howard Hughs Medical Institute, and 2000 Nobel Laureate in medicine 



high praise from a leader in the field!!!!!

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2 years ago  ::  May 10, 2012 - 4:38PM #3
markom
Posts: 29

No problem, and thanks for Nobel review quote, I haven't seen that. But I have read the book and it is as good as its praised. Sure in this field there is a room for lots of critics. Think of all branches of science, psychology and religions, that has dedicated to study the field of consciousness. Some of them may come almost unusable, if Hawkins theory gets improved and verified by real life applications.

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2 years ago  ::  May 12, 2012 - 9:22PM #4
Blü
Posts: 23,945

markom


We're fortunate to have an occasional poster here, Faustus5, who's an academic in the field of consciousness.


He's my source for the statement that the 'global workspace' model of consciousness is presently the leading contender to explain the phenomenon, and has been steadily strengthened by numerous experimental results for the purpose. 


If you're interested, google something like 'consciousness global workspace' - there's a lot about it on the net.

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 1:14AM #5
markom
Posts: 29

Thanks for suggestion. Inspired from that, I found this interesting link to present models of consciousness: www.scholarpedia.org/article/Models_of_c...

Global workspace is mentioned there also, but on summary it says: "At present, however, no single model of consciousness appears sufficient to account fully for the multidimensional properties of conscious experience. Moreover, although some of these models have gained prominence, none has yet been accepted as definitive, or even as a foundation upon which to build a definitive model." 


Since this is a discussion forum, I'd like to hear people's opinions, why Global workspace is a good model to explain consciousness?

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 10:07AM #6
Faustus5
Posts: 2,020

May 13, 2012 -- 1:14AM, markom wrote:

Global workspace is mentioned there also, but on summary it says: "At present, however, no single model of consciousness appears sufficient to account fully for the multidimensional properties of conscious experience. Moreover, although some of these models have gained prominence, none has yet been accepted as definitive, or even as a foundation upon which to build a definitive model."


A couple things should be pointed out here.


That statement is a bit misleading. Multiple times, I've heard the global workspace model described as something around which a consensus is being formed in the cognitive neuroscience community, and one source even referred to it as the neuroscience equivalent of a "standard model" of consciousness.


I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that what Baars originally intended when he started formulating the model in the late 1980's was to collate common threads that were appearing in different approaches by his peers, and pull them together in one general model.


The article you linked to doesn't appear to recognize this. In fact, it treats different aspects of what falls under the global workspace model as separate, possibly competing models of consciousness.


For instance, Dennett's multiple draft theory (entry number two) is just a philosophical attempt to analyze how we should treat information content as it evolves via dynamic processes in the brain. It is not in any sense an alternative to the global workspace model--Dennett has openly endorsed the global workspace approach and his multiple drafts theory was constructed in light of it.


Take the next two entries--the dynamic core and information integration. These are also just different parts of the larger series of processes the global workspace model describes, and Edelman has also enthusiastically written about the ways his dynamic core approach is linked to that of Baars.


And so it goes, down most of the entries on the list, which simply go into more detail on various processes the workspace model glosses over, being a higher level survey of what cognitive neuroscience is discovering. These are not different models, but rather bits and pieces of the first entry--there is a good reason why he puts the global neuronal workspace approach at the top. There is no sense in which most of the approaches described in the article are even attempting to be "the" definitive model of consciousness. Harkening back to the five blind men parable, most of the entries in the article are parts of the elephant. The global workspace model is the elephant itself, an attempt to pull together what different parts of the field are saying, and show how they interact and connect to one another.


Hope that makes sense.


(Oh, and I'm not an academic in the field, just a well read amateur.)

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 3:01PM #7
markom
Posts: 29

May 13, 2012 -- 10:07AM, Faustus5 wrote:

May 13, 2012 -- 1:14AM, markom wrote:

Global workspace is mentioned there also, but on summary it says: "At present, however, no single model of consciousness appears sufficient to account fully for the multidimensional properties of conscious experience. Moreover, although some of these models have gained prominence, none has yet been accepted as definitive, or even as a foundation upon which to build a definitive model."


A couple things should be pointed out here.


That statement is a bit misleading. Multiple times, I've heard the global workspace model described as something around which a consensus is being formed in the cognitive neuroscience community, and one source even referred to it as the neuroscience equivalent of a "standard model" of consciousness.


I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that what Baars originally intended when he started formulating the model in the late 1980's was to collate common threads that were appearing in different approaches by his peers, and pull them together in one general model.


The article you linked to doesn't appear to recognize this. In fact, it treats different aspects of what falls under the global workspace model as separate, possibly competing models of consciousness.


For instance, Dennett's multiple draft theory (entry number two) is just a philosophical attempt to analyze how we should treat information content as it evolves via dynamic processes in the brain. It is not in any sense an alternative to the global workspace model--Dennett has openly endorsed the global workspace approach and his multiple drafts theory was constructed in light of it.


Take the next two entries--the dynamic core and information integration. These are also just different parts of the larger series of processes the global workspace model describes, and Edelman has also enthusiastically written about the ways his dynamic core approach is linked to that of Baars.


And so it goes, down most of the entries on the list, which simply go into more detail on various processes the workspace model glosses over, being a higher level survey of what cognitive neuroscience is discovering. These are not different models, but rather bits and pieces of the first entry--there is a good reason why he puts the global neuronal workspace approach at the top. There is no sense in which most of the approaches described in the article are even attempting to be "the" definitive model of consciousness. Harkening back to the five blind men parable, most of the entries in the article are parts of the elephant. The global workspace model is the elephant itself, an attempt to pull together what different parts of the field are saying, and show how they interact and connect to one another.


Hope that makes sense.


(Oh, and I'm not an academic in the field, just a well read amateur.)


Oh I see, thanks for clarification and your input on topic. To go back to my question then, its it true, that Global Workspace Theory says consciousness is a rich biological phenomenon fundamentally, or does it include some parts of the quantum mechanics theories or even spiritual extensions on its model?

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 3:18PM #8
Faustus5
Posts: 2,020

May 13, 2012 -- 3:01PM, markom wrote:

To go back to my question then, its it true, that Global Workspace Theory says consciousness is a rich biological phenomenon fundamentally, or does it include some parts of the quantum mechanics theories or even spiritual extensions on its model?


The global neuronal workspace model doesn't conclude that consciousness is a "rich biological phenomenon fundamentally", because that would be to say basically nothing, as that consciousness is a "rich biological phenomenon fundamentally" is basically a starting assumption of neuroscience generally.


This is from an abstract on the subject and serves as a sound bite summary of what the GNW model says:


At any given time, many modular cerebral networks are active in parallel and process information in an unconscious manner. An information becomes conscious, however, if the neural population that represents it is mobilized by top-down attentional amplification into a brain-scale state of coherent activity that involves many neurons distributed throughout the brain. The long distance connectivity of these "workplace neurons" can, when they are active for a minimal duration, make the information available to a variety of processes including perceptual categorization, long-term memorization, evaluation, and intentional action. We postulate that this global availability of information through the workplace is what we subjectively experience as a conscious state.


--"Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and a workspace framework", Dehaene and Naccache


It is certainly not a "spiritual" approach, and since currently no "quantum mechanical" approach to the science of consciousness has had any degree of success, those approaches are not yet part of the model. But if any of them does become successful, they will by virtue of that success get folded into the grand umbrella that the model strives to be.

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 3:36PM #9
markom
Posts: 29

Have you read the Mind of Wigner's friend by Bass & co. : http://www.scribd.com/doc/90917219/The-Mind-of-Wigner-s-Friend-Ludwig-Bass


It seems to address conciousness issue by quantum mechanics. I havent read that article very well because it inclused mathematical data I cannot understand anyway, but maybe you know that branch also?

From this point of view Global workspace seems to be an umbrella name for all generally accepted related work. Is it rather a big supportive framework or just colllection of minor frameworks?

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2 years ago  ::  May 13, 2012 - 3:54PM #10
Faustus5
Posts: 2,020

May 13, 2012 -- 3:36PM, markom wrote:

Have you read the Mind of Wigner's friend by Bass & co. : http://www.scribd.com/doc/90917219/The-Mind-of-Wigner-s-Friend-Ludwig-Bass


It seems to address consciousness issue by quantum mechanics.



I stopped reading at the bottom of the first page when the author repeated New Age misinformation about consciousness and the "measurement problem". His views do not at all represent what the majority of serious scientists believe about the measurement problem. Consciousness has nothing to do with it.


Incidentally, this is why the track record of attempts to combine consciousness with quantum physics is entirely one of failure: each and every case is the result of either a misunderstanding on the part of the theoretician, or unnecessary over-reach.

May 13, 2012 -- 3:36PM, markom wrote:

From this point of view Global workspace seems to be an umbrella name for all generally accepted related work. Is it rather a big supportive framework or just collection of minor frameworks?


It is more an attempt to take a long view at what different groups of researchers were finding out about the neuroscience of consciousness and show how all the moving parts actually relate to and influence each other. I think Baars was concerned that too many in neuroscience were only paying attention to their own narrow research and weren't understanding how all the pieces of everyone's work fit together.

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