RE: The dangers of genuine ignorance (was: Volitional Morality and Action Judgement)

From: Michael Wilson (
Date: Sat May 29 2004 - 00:11:54 MDT

> You seem to be assuming that intelligence without consciousness is
> possible, or at least, easier to come up with than intelligence with
> consciousness.

What we usually call 'consciousness' is one of the primary products of
the bizarrely broken human self-model. Of course it's broken in ways that
are non-intuitive to primitive humans, as it wouldn't work otherwise.

> If that were true why did random mutation and natural selection bother
> to produce an animal that was conscious in the first place?

Random mutation and natural selection don't 'bother' to do anything. They
are unintelligent physical processes with no ability to plan ahead or to
focus selection pressure on complex targets. Natural selection follows
shallow incremental paths and only then when there is environmental
pressures and time to do so. As the first species on the planet to even
approach general intelligence, not to mention one that has undergone a
lot of cognitive architecture extension in a short space of time, we are
almost certainly a particularly messy and suboptimal implementation even
by natural selection's usual Rube Goldberg standards.

> Our inner mental lives may be supremely important to us but to evolution
> only external actions are important; an intelligent zombie that acts the
> same way we do would work just fine from evolutionís point of view

Large chunks of the human mind evolved to improve competence in tribal
social interactions. Seeing things from other agent's point of view,
manipulating them by words, gifts or force and modelling them modelling
you modelling them would normally all be difficult competences for an
incremental process to build. However natural selection stumbled on a
convenient shortcut (i.e. shallow incremental path); implement empathy
by putting in the ability to supervene on cognition and use a brain's
own wetware as the simulator for similar wetware in other brains, then
extend the (rapidly growing) ability to introspect with a clear self/other
distinction and limited visibility of the self-centred goal system.

There's more to consciousness than just that, but this is a good example
of how natural selection just does bizarre stuff at times, particularly in
rapidly evolving branches of the reproductive tree.

> ...there would be no point in going to the trouble to come up with
> consciousness unless you canít have intelligence without consciousness.

There are lots of design features of humans that aren't optimal or are
just side effects, even for living in hunter-gatherer tribes. Consciousness
is in the first class, the philosophical knots a small fraction of the
population end up in are in the second class.

 * Michael Wilson


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