Re: Consciousness (Re: JOIN)

From: Olie Lamb (
Date: Sun Oct 30 2005 - 23:05:42 MST

Woody Long wrote:

>[Original Message]
>>From: Olie Lamb <>
>>Many people have more success in carrying on two conversations at once
>>if they are using different channels - for instance, reading and
>listening at once.
>Is this from a controlled experiment? In a controlled experiment, monitored
>by instruments more powerful then subjective experience, subjects can be
>seen to be switching back and forth very quickly, processing one then the
>other, although the subjective experience may be of doing them "at the same
>time." This is the flaw in your argument. This self-switching is happening
>extremely quickly, perhaps at the speed of light,
Sorry, but what the fuck does the speed of light have to do with
attention-switching? Attention can have relation to sensory events, or
similar, and so it is relevant to talk about about "rate of events".
However, since the time it takes for a sinapse to fire is many many
microseconds, which is many miles at light speeds, C don't enter into it.

> and fools you into
>thinking you are doing two things at the once. But the monitoring
>instruments prove otherwise.
No, I was not talking from any controlled experiment. I concede the

>>Furthermore, it is obvious that we can take in many pieces of
>>information simultaneously, whether it be many parts of a picture, two
>>melodies at once (at least /I/ can memorise two short melodies played
>>simultaneously and in counterpoint), or sound accompanying picture,
>>accompanying touch. We can simultaneously take in numerous pieces of
>>information - numerous sources - and process them in parallellll. In the
>>visual field, not only can we simultaneously take in many bits of
>>information, we can simultaneously recognise several symbols.
>I think if you were to pay close attention, even your subjective experience
>would show you that you are first processing one sound, then processing the
>other, very quickly. At no single moment in time are you thinking both
>"That is A#." "and That is D flat." If not, the experimental data can show
>you this undeniable switching behavior.
No. For the musical experience, my subjective experience is strongly

Let us consider for a moment that the minimum duration of experience is
1/10th of a second - 100ms. */this seems to be a reasonably widely held
idea, but the best source I've found is in Tononi/Edelman's "A Universe
of Consciousness", and is not supported by research or footnoting. Does
anyone know any sources on this idea? It would be extremely helpful for
my PhD thesis!/*

Now, I can play scales in contrary motion at 6 notes per second (170ms
per note). My mother can play contrary motion scales 4:3 at 120 bpm,
which is 125ms and 170 ms. When I play these scales, I make a very
deliberate effort not to concentrate on either scale; I think of the two
scales together moving against each other. Furthermore, I definitely
think of two notes as I play them. If one accepts the 100ms minimum
experience duration, there isn't enough time to switch from one note to
the other.

What the hell my mother's brain does to play 4 against 3 contrary
motion, I don't know.

The subjective experience aside, I 'm aware of experimental evidence for
gathering more information than mono-track would allow in 100ms.

There are plenty of experiments that have been done on flashing visual
information for only a few miliseconds. An example is flashing a movie
frame (42ms). When such pictures are flashed, people can often identify
several pieces of information from them, eg, the colour of several
different dots on a 30ms flash. If one accepts a
minimum-experience-duration of anything more than 40-odd ms, then you're
going to have to do some fast explaining for why this doesn't breach the
"no more than one bit at a time" Css hypothesis.

Of course, you might argue that the experience of several images are
simultaneosly gathered by the subconscious and only then relayed to
consciousness, one-at-a-time, but I know a few psych-PhDs who would say
this is starting to stray from Psych-Science and into the territory of
introspective-psych, which is the domain of cognitive Philosophy.

> However, since Woody's contention that:
>>"the root of Consciousness (is) a focalizing agent, or self, that has no
>>option but to switch its focalizing attention to a single source"
>>can be disproved simply by showing that a human can switch their
>>focalising attention to more than one source, and since I think I showed
>>several examples of this above, I think that this notion about
>>Consciousness has to go sit out in the junk pile.
>My position is that your examples fall flat, and so you haven't disproved
>the Dual Sound Source Experiment at all, and as such my artificial self
>theory is still on the top shelf.
I was never trying to disprove the Dual Sound Source Experiment. The
experiment is interesting, and "valid".

I was saying that the inferences that you draw from it are bogus.

>>I think the "oneness" element of Consciouss is dreadfully overdone.
>>Certainly, I think that it would make for a dreadful test of whether or
>>not an android is conscious ("Can you walk and chew gum at the same
>>time? Yes? Well, you're not a conscious AI then.").
>In android engineering you are talking about two actuator actions, walking
>and chewing gum. To do both at the same time would simply require having
>one control processor doing one action, and at the same time another
>control processor doing the other action. Or you could have a single very
>fast processor doing both by swithching back and forth, which is
>interesting because it would be functioning like the focalizing agent,
>quickly switching from one action to the other, but so quickly that from
>external subjective experience it would appear to be doing both at the same
>time. This has nothing to do with possessing artificial conscious, as an
>unconscious, contemporary system could do this just as well, so this
>wouldn't be a test of anything, and not what I proposed.
>There's a school of psychology that makes a big deal about mono-tracking
>consciousness: Gestalt psychology. Gestalt psych is a helluva lot more
>sophisticated than just " people can't carry on two conversations at
>I think that scientists would agree with me that an objective experiment,
>properly controlled, is the definition of knowledge producing
The above experiment might be somewhat objective, but when you start
making statements about general consciousnesses, you're in danger of
straying out of the objective and into the wrong.

I mistakenly used a philosophical term - "people" - in a field where the
term can be used more broadly. From the Dual Sound Source experiment,
you can infer that /humans/ can't pay attention to two conversations at
once, but that doesn't carry for all consciousnesses.

Just say that an intelligence can pass an elaborate Turing-test test in
such a way that it becomes difficult to deny that it is exhibiting
conscious awareness.* "It Passes." This happens to be a transparent
digital AI on a parallel platform, and we can retropsectively see its
computation. (I think most SL4ers won't have too many problems with
such a scenario). Now just say that we slow it down its mental
processes (clock speed) so that it has few to no spare operations, and
ask it to carry on two conversations at once, and it is able to, and we
examine the computational states, and find that the computational
processors are not sequentially switching, but rather parallel
structures are working simultaneously on the two different conversations.

Are you telling me that the ability of this AI to carry on the
conversations in parallel is compelling evidence that the entity is not
conscious? Or do you assert that the parallel structures imply that
when the AI is carrying on two conversations, it has 2 separate

Both suggestions seem absurd to me.


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