Consciousness and its variations

Psyche and the Sacred:

Consciousness and its variations

A Microprocessor That Simulates a Synapse The English mathematician Alan Turing believed that in the relatively near future, scientists would manage to program a computer so as to give it conscious states. To determine when that goal would have been reached, he developed what is now known as the Turing Test.

This test assumes that one is in communication with an entity that one cannot see, through some remote mechanism such as postal mail or e-mail. The task is to ask this entity questions so as to determine whether it is a human or a computer.

If the entity is a machine, and it succeeds in fooling you into thinking that it is human, then it has passed the Turing Test and it can be assumed to have the same conscious states as a human being.

But a number of critics have objected that a computer that passes the Turing Test might simply be simulating conscious states in a very sophisticated way.

The idea that the essence of human thought is similar to the operation of computers—that it consists of symbolic representations manipulated by logical operations—continues to influence the cognitive sciences, even though this view is less common now than in the s or s.

While neuroscientists attempt to understand the operation of human consciousness directly, by analyzing its various componentsartificial intelligence AI researchers attempt to build machines that resemble the human mind as closely as possible.

These researchers hope that if they can succeed in building a machine whose responses can be mistaken for those of a human mind see preceding sidebarthen we may learn what a system must contain in order for a consciousness to emerge from it. Or perhaps the Dutch computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra had it right when he said: These conferences were attended by specialists from many disciplines, ranging from mathematics to psychology to anthropology, sociology, and neurobiology.

The scholars such as WienerShannon, McCulloch, von Foerster, and von Neumann who regularly attended these conferences strongly advocated that they take a multidisciplinary approach, which proved highly productive.

What are now known as the Macy Conferences gave rise to the cybernetics movement.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

Now defined as the general science of communication and control in natural and artificial systems, cybernetics studies how information circulates.

A number of ideas that originated in cybernetics have gone on to profoundly influence all fields of science biology, economics, ecology, and so on—follow the Tool Module link to the left.

For example, the concept of feedback has led to a better understanding of the numerous ways in which hormones control the human body. Many biologists, such as Henri Laborit and Henri Atlanwere greatly influenced by concepts of cybernetics.

This new science also quickly found applications in computing, then in its infancy, as well as in what would later become known as artificial intelligence see sidebar.

Consciousness and its variations

The cyberneticists were also clearly interested in investigating the complex system par excellence: And because they rejected all forms of idealism and shared a strong inclination toward materialismthey quite naturally included the study of the brain in their two approaches to complex systems: These two approaches tended to complement rather than contradict one another.

They gave rise to the two main currents that developed subsequently in the cognitive sciences: The computers developed during World War II, though still very slow, were a great source of inspiration for the cognitivist also known as the computational approach.

The classic use of the computer as a metaphor for the human mind though we now know its limitations—follow the Tool Module link to the left thus led the cognitivists to believe that the mind translates the components of the external world into internal representations, exactly as a computer does.

In other words, the cognitivists saw thought as a form of information processing. This central paradigm of cognitivism dominated the cognitive sciences from the mids for almost 20 years. As Jerry Fodor, a student of Hilary Putnam, couched the argument, to think is to manipulate symbols, and cognition is nothing more than manipulating symbols the way that computers do.

Once mental states had been equated with computer software and the brain with computer hardware, computer simulation and modelling became an ideal means of studying how the human mind operates.

The philosopher John Searle distinguished two positions regarding the possibilities of AI. But Searle dealt this position a harsh blow with his Chinese Room argument. No matter how much computational power they have, they can never create a true intelligence or a genuine consciousness.

Cognitivism, inspired by the operation of computers that manipulate symbols without interpreting their meaning, is forced to reduce the brain to a simple syntactic device, and not a semantic one. Epistemologically speaking, this position is vulnerable to attack from many angles.

It was in this context that connectionism, the other major current in the cognitive sciences, developed in the s. The roots of connectionism lie in cybernetics and neurobiology, and accordingly, its primary analogy for the human mind is a network of numerous interconnected units.

This new approach, based on networks of artificial neurons that process information in parallel, was developed to make the structure of cognitive models more closely approximate that of the brain. It is associated with philosophers such as Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter. In connectionism, mental representations are not discussed in terms of symbols, but instead are analyzed in terms of links among numerous distributed, co-operative, self-organizing agents.

Marvin Minsky, who inspired this approach, thus regards the cognitive system as a society of micro-agents that are capable of solving problems locally.

In contrast to the computing analogy used in cognitivism, connectionism does not depend on complex algorithms that are executed sequentially, or on a control centre that processes all the information, because the networks of neurons in the brain are considered quite capable of doing without them.Chapter 4: Consciousness and it's Variations; Shared Flashcard Set.

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Chapter 4: Consciousness and it's Variations. Description. Described consciousness as a stream or river. Although always changing, consciousness in percieved as unified and unbroken, much like a stream.

Term. Consciousness can be defined in information terms as a property of an entity (usually a living thing but we can also include artificially conscious machines or computers) that reacts to the information (and particularly to changes in the information) in its environment.

The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-Being Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan University of Rochester. The Hard Problem of Consciousness. The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.

Aug 05,  · Variations of Consciousness Posted on August 5, by ChrisPercy29 The purpose of this section is to give you an overview of the processes involved in sleep and wakefulness, sleep disorders, and psychoactive substances that can alter or . The purpose of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness is to understand the inherent nature of the consciousness and its characteristics.

Narrative form. In the west, the primary impact of the idea has been on literature rather than science: stream.