• Tyler
    41
    Is consciousness nothing more than a particular method of memory access?
    Couldn't being conscious of any particular thing, simply be accessing memory of the concept of function?

    This is a theory I've had for awhile, and after considering various aspects of "consciousness", have yet to come up with counter-evidence or reasoning. Perhaps this theory is similar to other current theories, as I haven't read up much at all.
    But I'm interested in others perspectives and feedback on this theory, and reasoning or evidence you can think of, which suggests this theory is incorrect or correct.


    Note: The 1st paragraph is a bit of a summary if you dont want to read so much. or ask, & I can post a link to quite a bit more detail, if you want to read more.

    Conscious Comprehension:
    Consciousness is basically a process of memory access. To be conscious of any given concept, is to access memory data of that concept, simultaneously to accessing data of the interaction of factors involved in the concept. General consciousness is accessing memory of the concept of; the existence and function of the individual itself.

    Different aspects of consciousness might be: conscious perception, conscious awareness, self-consciousness, and conscious thought.

    “Conscious perception” could be considered to be conscious of any given particular factor. Simultaneous memory access is what allows a “conscious” perception of the factor, and the relevance and implications of the factor’s existence. The noted factor, can be a variety of things, including objects, groups or categories of objects, concepts, or at the most basic and generic level, datum. The minimum required information for consciousness, would be information data labelled however it may be, with the factor being 1 unit of data, and the interaction being how that datum reacts with another unit of data.

    “Self-consciousness” could be considered, an individual being conscious of themself. The factor of which they are accessing within memory data, would be themself (and whatever they perceive themself to consist of, as saved in their memory data). The interaction of the factor (themself) would be the causes and effects of the existence of themselves, and how their existence relates to their surroundings (or whichever perception they have saved in memory data, of the settings regarding their presence).

    “Conscious awareness” could be considered, being continuously conscious of a concept. One difference of definition from “perception”, could be the requirement of continuous simultaneous memory access. As long as the individual sustains memory access to the factor and interaction of that factor, for a minimal period, the ongoing memory access could be considered awareness. Awareness could perhaps be of any given concept, but the most general intention of the term, is likely that of: the individual being consciously aware of the concept that they are capable of using thought, and that they are using it at the present time.

    “Conscious thought” could be considered the process of continuous memory access, and the circulation through saved memory data. Circulation through memory data is done by using the conscious process of simultaneous data access of any factor and the interaction of that factor, combined with sustained memory access, and a method to access an alternate factor within the overall memory data. A trigger method is required to allow differing factors to be accessed, and to guide which new factor within the memory, is accessed. The trigger method is the match or resemblance of one factor to another. With enough memory data, any factor or resemblance of the factor would be found multiple times, and as sustained memory access occurs, a differing factor or interaction of the same factor can be sequentially accessed. With humans, the factors are often distinguished by words which are saved as memory data, which resemble different pieces of memory data which was input to the brain via senses.

    For a memory system to be capable of effectively being conscious of new general data, it needs to have a function of perceiving the interaction of any factors of data it receives (so that its able to access the data of the factor as well as its interaction). To perceive the interaction of general data, the memory system need to be able to match any factor, to different accounts of that factors interaction with other factors. With a massive amount of received data (such as humans receive, typically), it could take excessive time to sort through all matches of a factor and perceive its interaction, and to determine the next factor to be accessed. Feedback triggers can be added, to regard certain factors, or sub-constructs of factors, or their interaction, as useful or not. This groups data, saving time.

    Humans have developed a conscious thought method, capable of processing general data which is input to the brain's memory system. The general data is received by the senses, and often saved with a feedback trigger which indicates relevance of that information data. Humans feedback triggers were developed to regard different sensory memories of encounters with their environment, to be helpful or harmful to their survival.

    All that being said, what are the benefits of the comprehension and understanding of the methods of consciousness?

    By analysing consciousness, the methods of intellectual distinguishment of factors, and the interaction and reaction of factors within a concept, can be determined. Consciousness and therein intelligence, could be significantly beneficial, if understood and potentially more effectively utilised. Once the process of: comprehension of factors within a concept, is understood, the process can be applied to all concepts and factors encountered throughout life. The effective process can be applied to any problem, to then cause the most preferable outcome, by more accurately adjusting factors (as the cause and effect of which is comprehended and saved as memory), and resolve problems.

    Understanding the process of consciousness is potentially, understanding the root of human thought and intelligence. Just like the process of consciousness itself, if it can be comprehended, then the cause and effect of the concept can be applied more effectively to more appropriate circumstances. Considering it is the method of virtually all interactions of us as humans, and the potential method of which any decision is made by an individual capable of conscious thought, this could be the most relevant, beneficial, and widely applicable concept to ever be understood!

    Conclusionarily, conceivably, the constructs of consciousness consist of comprehension of concepts, carrying combinations of code, critical to creating corresponding circulation. The code is memory data of virtually anything we encounter and save as information, using our senses. The circulation is memories triggering memories of resemblance.
    By use of these concepts of consciousness, virtually any information can be comprehended, even the concepts of consciousness...
  • Rich
    3.2k
    By use of these concepts of consciousness, virtually any information can be comprehended, even the concepts of consciousness...Tyler

    Information doesn't comprehend. Mind comprehends information and uses it to create. But yes, information is closely associated with memory. It seems to be equivalent.
  • mrcoffee
    57
    Information doesn't comprehend. Mind comprehends information and uses it to create.Rich

    But what is mind if not the is-ness or presence of creatively evolving information? What, in other words, is the mind apart from its contents? We might say that reality is self-organizing, creative information. Of course the word 'mind' remains essential in everyday discourse, so this is an indulgently metaphysical thesis. We might say that temporarily thinking of reality as self-organizing information could be useful/enjoyable. In this frame, 'information' is neither mental nor physical. It is the primary stuff that sorts itself into mental and physical bins for practical purposes. It would be the 'word' in the beginning, without which nothing else is possible. I'm touching on some like this in the thread I started on undefined but distinct symbols at the root of mathematical objectivity.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    What, in other words, is the mind apart from its contents?mrcoffee

    I agree. Mind and memory are one and cohesive.
  • Sydasis
    44
    When I think of memories, I'm reminded of a RadioLab podcast that looked at those with short term memory loss. What intrigued me was that the human response to some input could be reproduced identically and repeatedly in patients with a 2-minute memory. The mechanics of what make people think don't change all that much over time, so it's the memories and environment that enable variations in response over the short term.

    Also being exposed by modern deep layered neural networks, we see that there are different mechanisms of learning. Back-propagation techniques allow for neural networks to rearrange and balance themselves out over many iterations of training, but when not learning, these networks of neurons act as nothing more than a very complex transformation matrix. Data comes in, gets transformed, and the output is the reaction.

    This physical transformation matrix, made up of neurons, represents a memory of what has been learned. The physical arrangement of switches, weights, and activation all are forms of learned memories; they are not really re-callable memories though, rather hard-wired reactive memories that perform a task. You can perhaps visualize the hardwired network by poking it and seeing what output is generated. Entering the word cat might result in a picture of a cat, for example.

    When we look at more modern machine learning techniques, like long-short-term-memory neural networks, more temporal forms of memory are added to the system that allow inputs to be connected over time. Sentence structure, sentiment analysis, and predictions become possible. The system becomes more than just an instinctive reflex and even someone in deep sleep is capable of a reflex.

    As we learn more about neural networks, it seems we are learning more about ourselves. Regarding this conversation, my belief is that consciousness is an outcome of neurons just doing their job and the resulting arrangement of it all. The arrangement of these neurons can be represented with just data, the behavior of each neuron can be represented with just data, and the state of current dynamic memory is stored in some physical but ever fleeting way. The system needs to spin though to keep processing the input information, so energy is needed to keep the neurons reacting as programmed in the network that they have been arranged.

    Consciousness is then simply some abstract consolidation of the different outputs and inputs, perceived as one thought. It is a meshed loop of outputs feeding into inputs, chained together in a way that is unaware of how fragmented it all is in relation to actual time and space. As the components of each system flow from cluster of neurons to cluster or neurons, perhaps simultaneously at times, the illusion of a singular time line and singular consciousness is established. ie, The right side of the brain may not actually know what the left side is doing, yet we still feel we perceive ourselves having one consciousness.

    One curious question though is, what happens when you take away the inputs to such a system and replace it with something unnaturally void? Systems without inputs start to produce some really weird results from my own experiments with neural networks. I suppose phantom limbs and sensory deprivation tanks are possible places of answers.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Consciousness is then simply some abstract consolidation of the different outputs and inputs,Sydasis

    There is nothing abstract about it. It is the most concrete aspect of our existence. Your consciousness dreamed up and created your post. Embrace it for its creativity.
  • Sydasis
    44
    There is nothing abstract about it.Rich

    It's possible I used the wrong word, but I think I still stand by the choice in word.

    ab·stract - existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.

    From the outside looking in, a virtual robot to us appears to not have a conscious. We go so far as to argue that pets and animals do not have conscious either, yet we generally assume that a mentally handicapped person has a consciousness, because we assume they are like us.

    I am able these days to program a neural network to dream or to create a post, perhaps even more logical and meaningful than your own. A machine passing the Turing test is no longer an impossibility. That does not prove to me that it or even you has a conscious. From the outside physical world looking in, your consciousness to me is nothing more than a bunch of neurons pulsing away. This is why I use the word "abstract".

    This term, consciousness, represents an idea we claim to have, but an idea does not mean we are truly conscious. Having an idea does not imply consciousness, does it? My cat has lots of clever ideas, like the idea of pissing on my pillow when I went on vacation for a week.

    Without a doubt, it will be one day be possible to upload a physical snapshot of our brains to a computer and run it. We will be able to run our thoughts backwards in time, and yet we will still perceive ourselves and time as moving forward. We can run our digital brains across millions of computers, in fragments, perhaps even run part of it from the moon and the other part here, and yet we will still perceive things as singular. Cutting away at this digital brain, how much is needed before we then qualify the system as no longer conscious?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    a virtual robot to us appears to not have a conscious.Sydasis

    I've never viewed a robot in such a way. I can't imagine how can computer can be confused with any sort of life.
    I am able these days to program a neural network to dream or to create a post, perhaps even more logical and meaningful than your own.Sydasis

    Only in the eyes of the programmer who did the programming. The programmer is the human who created the computer program. It's terribly easy to tell the difference.

    I'll give you a clue. Consciousness is that which is creating all those programs.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Hi, and welcome to TPF


    “Self-consciousness” could be considered, an individual being conscious of themself. The factor of which they are accessing within memory data, would be themself (and whatever they perceive themself to consist of, as saved in their memory data). The interaction of the factor (themself) would be the causes and effects of the existence of themselves, and how their existence relates to their surroundings (or whichever perception they have saved in memory data, of the settings regarding their presence).

    I think we learn to become self conscious by means of differentiation. Early on infants identify with their care givers and they do not consider them separate entities, but eventually in following others actions, and constructing theories on why things are occur as they do, children learn that care givers are acting purposely, causally and in this manner they learn that they are not their care givers. In making this distinction the child learns its own agency, its ability to act self consciously, to change and not be able to change things according to its desires.
  • Sydasis
    44

    We are building systems that think; every day we make progress in duplicating our capabilities and more. I have no doubt we will one day be able to create synthetic awareness that we will struggle to differentiate from our own. if that makes us gods, so be it.

    Perhaps the modern theory that we live in a virtual universe is itself true too, where we are the created, and as such, by your definition, we would then not be conscious. Even for a creationist, if we were created, the only one with a conscious should then be the creator themself.
  • Sydasis
    44
    I think we learn to become self conscious by means of differentiation. Early on infants identify with their care givers and they do not consider them separate entities, but eventually in following others actions, and constructing theories on why things are occur as they do, children learn that care givers are acting purposely, causally and in this manner they learn that they are not their care givers. In making this distinction the child learns its own agency, its ability to act self consciously, to change and not be able to change things according to its desires.Cavacava
    interesting.

    Are other creatures capable of learning conscious in the same way then? Or is there something more to humans that allow us to have that capability. I like to believe while my cat may not have the language to define himself as an individual, I believe he is quite conscious of some things. For example, he is quite clever, and if being clever requires conscious thought, than `nuf said.

    In regards to identity or awareness as a concept, it does indeed seem that one may need to first learn that there is a the difference between them and others, before the next step is taken to be conscious of ones own agency, or along the lines as you so put.
  • Tyler
    41
    Information doesn't comprehend. Mind comprehends information and uses itRich
    Yes, I agree the mind comprehends info, and I think that's how I have it worded, as in this sentence: "virtually any information can be comprehended", it is implied that the mind is that which comprehends the info.

    The arrangement of these neurons can be represented with just dataSydasis
    I think that makes sense, that it could all be represented by data. Do you think that would mean the data could be generated in a computer to simulate consciousness, without imitating the infrastructure of a brain? Perhaps a mimic of consciousness could be computed with only code. Though I suspect it would take a lot of code.

    It is a meshed loop of outputs feeding into inputsSydasis
    Would that be basically the method of function for one memory to trigger another related memory, and at times circle back and trigger the same memory?

    As the components of each system flow from cluster of neurons to cluster or neurons, perhaps simultaneously at times, the illusion of a singular time line and singular consciousness is establishedSydasis
    That sounds like nearly the function of consciousness as I believe it. If the neurons in the clusters are accessing memories relative and relevant to each other, including memories of concepts and the function of factors within the concepts, then the mind perceives consciousness of those concepts.

    what happens when you take away the inputs to such a system and replace it with something unnaturally void?Sydasis
    You get dreams, perhaps. Sleeping is a lack of sensory and memory input, and without active stimulation for memories, the brain defaults to memories which have most recently been accessed. Although, I suppose by "system", you may have been referring to conscious data system? Where dreams are subconscious, but then again, your neural networks you mentioned, are quite likely also not conscious. Maybe the weird results you've found, are similar in some way to dreams?

    This term, consciousness, represents an idea we claim to have, but an idea does not mean we are truly conscious. Having an idea does not imply consciousness, does it? My cat has lots of clever ideas, like the idea of pissing on my pillow when I went on vacation for a week.Sydasis
    I disagree. I think the idea which is represented by the term "consciousness" does in fact imply consciousness. Since the only definition and intended meaning by the term "consciousness", is that idea. The only thing that the term really refers to is that idea, which we have of what it means.
    Your cat may be a clever one for pissing on your pillow, ha ha, but the idea of a cat, functions differently or to a significantly differing degree, than the idea we have of consciousness.

    even run part of it from the moon and the other part here, and yet we will still perceive things as singularSydasis
    very interesting point. Reminds me of something I have been wondering; what is the degree of connection required, between the differing data units which are being accessed, for the system to remain 1 overall memory system? would the minimum required connection be an electrical current perhaps?

    Cutting away at this digital brain, how much is needed before we then qualify the system as no longer conscious?Sydasis
    I would say, once you cut away enough that the system can no longer simultaneously access memory data of any unit of the data, and memory of the reaction of that datum (in any circumstances). Though, that is my most basic estimate of parameters required to be conscious of only 1 piece of information. The more generalized term of being conscious, requires memory access to specific concepts, of the existence of the memory system itself, I think.
  • Sydasis
    44
    I think that makes sense, that it could all be represented by data. Do you think that would mean the data could be generated in a computer to simulate consciousness, without imitating the infrastructure of a brain? Perhaps a mimic of consciousness could be computed with only code. Though I suspect it would take a lot of code.Tyler

    absolutely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_uploading

    I think the required data is a minimum of 20-petabytes (assuming just the addresses of the connected neurons, the synapse type and the synapse "weight" for each of the brains' 10^15 synapses), which seems feasible with high resolution MRI scanners. Last I heard, it takes 40 hours of supercompute cycles to simulate a minute of brain activity. I'd like to have my brain scanned on my death bed if possible, even if it meant freezing my brain to allow for an accurate scan.
  • Sydasis
    44
    Would that be basically the method of function for one memory to trigger another related memory, and at times circle back and trigger the same memory?Tyler

    Perhaps. Our brain is a complex map of layers of structures and neurons, and many of these systems I suspect have feedback loops. In machine learning, a recursive neural network is what your describing and I have little doubt our brain makes use of these.

    In computers, looping data from the output of a transistor, into the input of the transistor, is a way to keep it in memory. It wouldn't surprise me if those systems existed in us too, especially when talking about something like short-term working memories -- don't know tho

    I suppose my main point is that although we see the world as a singular, the "now", our current thoughts are a mix of past, present, and even future, being processed across more than just one space in our heads. There is probably a small spot of the deep brain that really brings the sensors all together, but it would still be a complex system that relies on all its inputs and even outputs.
  • Sydasis
    44
    You get dreams, perhaps. Sleeping is a lack of sensory and memory input, and without active stimulation for memories, the brain defaults to memories which have most recently been accessed.Tyler

    I wasn't even thinking of dreams, but I believe you may be largely correct. I was thinking of being awake, conscious, and when i explored "sensory deprivation" systems, it seems people lose track of time and their own sansity in quick order.
  • Sydasis
    44
    I disagree. I think the idea which is represented by the term "consciousness" does in fact imply consciousness. Since the only definition and intended meaning by the term "consciousness", is that idea. The only thing that the term really refers to is that idea, which we have of what it means.
    Your cat may be a clever one for pissing on your pillow, ha ha, but the idea of a cat, functions differently or to a significantly differing degree, than the idea we have of consciousness.
    Tyler

    I get my own semantics on this issue confused at times. Self awareness, consciousness, and the ability for active thought. I don't know
  • Sydasis
    44
    Reminds me of something I have been wondering; what is the degree of connection required, between the differing data units which are being accessed, for the system to remain 1 overall memory system? would the minimum required connection be an electrical current perhaps?Tyler

    I don't know. One aspect might be latency, as lets say we add enough latency to each fragment of the brain so that the time difference of each data chunk is noticeable. For example, you may see your hand moving before you told it to move, and only moments later then realize why you are moving it; that might introduce the awareness of fractured time to the conscious. Our nerve impulses move very quickly at times, fast enough that we aren't aware of the delay.

    In a real world example of added latency, If I put my hand on the stove, my hand is moved quickly, perhaps even before I realize it has moved. I realize it after, but I don't seem to notice that I moved my hand before I was made conscious that I wanted to move it. It's a weak example, as it requires little thought to have such a reflex, but it illustrates my point somewhat I hope.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Are other creatures capable of learning conscious in the same way then? Or is there something more to humans that allow us to have that capability.

    You might enjoy neuroscientist Sarah Woolley, PhD Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute
    fascinating discussion about song bird learning.

    https://youtu.be/4gnACxmMD2g
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Is consciousness nothing more than a particular method of memory access?Tyler

    I think that this is fundamentally what the process is that gives us that feeling of consciousness, yes. But not just that, also continuous sensory input too, not just internal access of brain states.

    This, however, is not a full explanation since a computer can also have inputs and also access memory.
    I do no think the computer has feelings, of consciousness or anything else for that matter.
  • Tyler
    41

    Thanks, glad to have found this.
    Interesting that infants don't identify as a separate entity, but I would think that is because they are incapable of identifying or perceiving anything at all, with a lack brain function to comprehend concepts as complex as that. I would think that the differentiation as an individual, is not so much the means to self-consciousness, but more a requirement of the definition. I would think the means are whatever causes the perceived differentiation of self and other.

    Are other creatures capable of learning conscious in the same way then? Or is there something more to humans that allow us to have that capabilitySydasis
    I believe the difference between animals and humans is basically the ease of access of memories. Animals using subconscious reaction, access much fewer memories based on sensory input. With humans ability to access memories easier, we can then access memories of cause and effect of any given factor. So basically, whatever function (quantity of neorons or synapse connection?) in the brain causes our ease of increased memory access, is what I believe makes the difference.

    Last I heard, it takes 40 hours of supercompute cycles to simulate a minute of brain activity.Sydasis
    Wow, pretty intense. I would assume that is equivalent to a human brain which has average activity while conscious. But, I wonder if a much smaller portion of human brain activity could be replicated, such as an instant freeze frame of someones brain activity. Or a single memory, though i'd assume we dont know the human brain well enough to calculate which parts of the brain relate to which memories.

    I get my own semantics on this issue confused at times. Self awareness, consciousness, and the ability for active thought.Sydasis
    I can understand that. Considering consciousness is ill explained or commonly understood, this makes the definition very vague, causing a much higher degree of variation of anyone's perspective of what the term means.

    If I put my hand on the stove, my hand is moved quickly, perhaps even before I realize it has movedSydasis
    Interesting, but wouldnt that be a result of instinct bypassing consciousness? I imagine instinct as preset triggers built in to the individual, which cause X reaction to Y sensory input. In the eg of touching something hot, X= move hand away to Y= pain, which is preset triggers built in to virtually any human. I suspect this is what causes the latency, since instinct would react faster than consciousness (being the slowest brain activity). So, I think preset reaction triggers bypassing consciousness might be the only way that latency would occur.


    also continuous sensory input too, not just internal access of brain states.charleton
    Why do you assume continuous sensory input is required? I think any human could still be conscious for some time (even if minimal), with complete sensory deprival. As long as they are still accessing memories of concepts involved in their own existence relative to their surrounding.

    This, however, is not a full explanation since a computer can also have inputs and also access memory.charleton
    I think the difference is that computers do not access memories of factors simultaneously to the interaction of that factor. I guess my theory is that it would be relatively easy to make a computer conscious of any given factor. But to be generally conscious of its own relative existence, would be a bit more complex...
  • charleton
    1.2k
    also continuous sensory input too, not just internal access of brain states.
    — charleton
    Why do you assume continuous sensory input is required? I think any human could still be conscious for some time (even if minimal), with complete sensory deprival. As long as they are still accessing memories of concepts involved in their own existence relative to their surrounding.
    Tyler

    What a wretched existence. Imagine a child born without any sensation. What would they be conscious or? Nothing. Their brain would never form from the blob that nature gave them. All that we are is structured by our experience. Without any sensation we would have nothing; nothing to think about, nothing to react to; nothing to be conscious of.
    Were we to chose to go into a sensory deprivation chamber we are still have the sensation of breathing, and heart beat. We have proprioperception, hunger, and a range of other senses way beyond the classical Big Five.
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