The density of consciousness measured as an intensive magnitude

in philosophy •  last year

This is a continuation of a previous post on this subject.

Imagine the gnat darting around that exterior light in and out from the falling raindrops into the light again. If one films that trajectory back and forth and then slows it down, you can get slow motion and then those bugs will begin to move at a speed similar to humans. What might this suggest about the speed of their “consciousness”? There’s a Star Trek episode that captures the essence of this idea called Wink of an Eye.

(Google Images - Wikimedia Commons)

Can it be said to be called consciousness at all if these actions are all “instinctive”? What is the difference between “self awareness” and “self preservation”? One problem is that we don’t really know what that bug’s experience of self is. But it does act within the principle of self preservation.

A related issue is artificial intelligence. Recently Facebook shut down an experiment because a pair of robots invented their own language for negotiation. How do we know when AI is achieved? We don’t know that bug’s experiences, whether it’s just reacting to its own programming or is acting with volition.

I would propose that a definition for AI would be any entity that could “rewrite” its own code. When you see a piece of software emerge and then it begins to rewrite its own code to reflect itself, it might show some measurement of consciousness.

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(Google Images - Wikimedia Commons)

Science has a tendency since the ideas of Descartes (such as inanimate objects have no consciousness and are not alive) to regard the property of extension as being the most “real” or dependable. Science as an “extensive” magnitude has the ability to replicate findings and create hypotheses that generate predictable results. In this case a “unit” is defined and all other units are considered the same.

The problem with extension though is when that unit reaches the edges of its upper or lower limits. An example of this is when you go from miles per hour to something like light years, then the unit itself no longer carries the property of sameness (see Plato). Distance / length breaks down at the speed of light and becomes increasingly difficult to measure. Light itself has the property of brightness, but you cannot measure its brightness with a ruler. Distance similarly breaks down at the subatomic level when you introduce quantum mechanics.

Intensive magnitudes are an inversion of the idea of the extension of unit. Here you first define the upper and lower limits of your measurement. Robert Schmidt (philosopher), once gave an example of an intensive magnitude…

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(Google Images - Wikimedia Commons)

Imagine a petri dish with water and that water is completely translucent. Keep adding drops of red dye. Each drop represents a unit, but there comes a point after which one keeps adding drops and the water ceases to become any more red. This is the point at which it reaches “saturation”. One can think of this as having a range of 0 to 100%.

Consciousness appears to have a saturation point with upper and lower limits. How many discrete thoughts can someone have in the course of one minute, or one second? When switching between thoughts, one loses awareness of one for another.

To be continued…

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