Re: COMP & Self-awareness

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 20:47:42 -0700

Colin Hales wrote:
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: [mailto:everything-
>>] On Behalf Of Brent Meeker
>>Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:39 AM
>>Subject: Re: COMP & Self-awareness
> <snip, sorry>
>>I'd say it's the other way around. Self-awareness can't appear without
>>consciousness. My dog is
>>conscious in that he knows his name and he knows he's different from my
>>wife's dog, whose name he
>>also knows. But I don't think he has the reflexive self-awareness of a
>>human being, an "inner
>>narrative". I don't see how you could have self-awareness without being
>>conscious, but I'm often conscious without being self-aware.
>>Brent Meeker
> The obscuring factor here is of the two sorts of self awareness that might
> benefit from elaboration.
> First is the collection of phenomenal fields (the visual field, for
> example). The scenes they provide in our head are centered on us as
> cognitive agents. The emotion of thirst, for example, is an Omni
> directional, isotropic, homogenous scene (you don't get thirsty in front or
> behind!, its uniform and spherically delivered.). The visual scene is highly
> anisotropic and inhomogenous.
> The 'self' in phenomenal scenes is implicit in that the scene is constructed
> to appear to be centred on us. But beyond that _within_ the scene can be a
> representation of our own body, once again appropriately delivered centred.
> Out of body experiences are when the scene centering system gets moved. We
> may then get an entirely different depiction of our complete self and still
> know (in the sense to follow below) that it is 'me', my 'self'.
> Secondly, completely separate to the phenomenal scenes, but generated from
> them via the action of extracting perceived regularities (what the brain
> does really well) is knowledge. This knowledge is only made apparent in
> behaviour - even such simple behaviour as the reporting of a belief (such as
> recognition of a name). Within the complete collection of beliefs (which are
> entirely devoid of phenomenal content) is a set of beliefs about "self" to
> an arbitrary level of complexity.
> a) Phenomenal awareness (experience inclusive of a self model)
> And
> b) Psychological awareness (knowledge inclusive of a self model)
> The latter is derived from the former.
> Call them primary and secondary self awareness? Dunno.
> As to what 'consciousness' might be?
> I'd say that if a cognitive agent has (a) at all then consciousness is
> present, regardless of the self-representation and regardless of the extent
> of (b).
> Conversely, no matter how complex a cognitive agent's (b) is and regardless
> of the complexity of the self model.... a creature devoid of (a) is a
> zombie.... deserved of the status of a household appliance. No matter how
> complex a self model there is in (b) the creature has zero internal life. It
> does not know it is anywhere. It may to some extent be able to act 'as-if'
> it had an internal life, but it's just acting - an attribution bestowed by a
> non-zombie with some (a).
> By the way...the physiological evidence for this division is summarised
> nicely in a 'consciousness studies' context in a recent book by Derek Denton
> which tracks primordial emotions out of the neo-cortex into small neural
> cohorts in the ancient basal brain structures. Primordial emotions are the
> emotions of internal body life-support such as breathlessness, hunger etc.
> Creatures without a neo-cortex can have (a) with minimal (b) and therefore
> have experiences and are conscious, just not very conscious. No self model
> necessary, just minimal reflex behaviour.
> Derek Denton, The Primordial Emotions:
> The dawning of consciousness, Oxford University Press. 2005
> (Bruno: it came out first in French!)
> That help?
> Colin Hales

Maybe...with some more explication. You're saying that phenomenal awareness (a) is perception that
includes a model of oneself as the percipient. But I don't see what (b) is?...knowing you're six
foot tall and live in California? Have you read any of John McCarthy's essays (see his website) on
making a conscious robot? If a robot knows where it is (say via GPS) and senses its surroundigs
(say by IR cameras) then it's got consciousness (a). If it also knows it weighs 5000lbs and has
enough fuel to go 200miles it's got consciousness (b) (I'm not just making these up - they're things
a vehicle in the DARPA challenge would have).

Now suppose that it also has a memory of what obstacles it crossed in the past and which ones it
failed to cross; and when it detects a new obstacle it uses this memory to decide whether to go
around or not. What kind of consciousness is that?

Brent Meeker

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Received on Tue Jul 25 2006 - 23:49:46 PDT

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