(Towards a materialistic definition of consciousness -M.Tolon)
Humans are creatures constantly weighing things, trying to determine whether or not they are useful or harmful to them, or if they are right or wrong etc. This universal dichotomy -such as yin-yang, flight or fight- is ever present.
This is the same at the cellular level, and is similar at immunological levels as well (self vs non-self, the other). Tribes, neighborhoods, nations, religions, and cultures all work based on this principle. We can only surpass or transcend these dichotomies when they prove to be insufficient. Is it possible that bias might not be a problem- ; instead once understood, it may act as a key that can unlock the solution. In other words, before transcendence, it is necessary to first define that which seems to be the conflict or the dichotomy to be surpassed.
I have “faith” in the definition of consciousness, which I am about to share. If you acknowledge it in your own terms, then that may become a point of contention and necessitate and enable further research. Let me first expand the concept of “faith” or belief.
The more the data, the less the faith and this in turn leads to the fact that trust is almost always a reflection of the personal experience of belief!
In Izmir, there are now 3,500,000 people who we “believe” are alive. It would take months if I were to count them one by one. Even if all of us were implanted with a chip and a number was spoken out loud, it wouldn’t be exact as at that moment, there would still be births and deaths. The definite and transient number would be a measurement only valid for a moment or a fraction of a second. Afterwards the theory of relativity of time would appear as a totally different dimension.
We see that not only mammals, or insects but also plants possess “intelligence”, the ability to learn and adapt, and protective mechanisms.
In 1979, Benjamin Libet demonstrated that for human beings, there was a warning signal in the brain 1-2 seconds before a button was actually pushed, administering certain tests such as the EEG. Later on, we observed similar results in MR scans where there were warning signals in the brain 10 seconds before the procedure.
In other words, after a prejudiciary decision, there is always a brief period before making a final “judgment”. In cultural evolutions, this supposedly “short” period has been increasing to the tune of decades, centuries, and thousands of years. And will do so until more prejudices have been overcome.
In the 30’s, in an experiment conducted by Van Hahn of the Lorenz group, electrodes were applied to the brains of chickens. He discovered that there were some warning templates which passed from generation to generation and that these blueprints were possessed by all the chickens. A chick hatched in a sample laboratory is also embedded with the software showing it how to act in case of a falcon’s attack.
This applies to people too. Even if we never experience certain events, due to our evolutionary development, we are also born with templates determining our course of action. We are creatures who respond very quickly but comprehend quite slowly.
In other words, consciousness and the decision-making mechanism instincts kick in only after a period of “pre-judgment”. Bias / prejudice (pre-judgment) or “Vor-urteil.”
Thus the Definition of Consciousness
In the process of evolution, and throughout the life of the individual, consciousness is the sum and culmination of all the data perceived as “self vs non- self, “ I need this vs I don’t need this”, “this is good for me vs this is wrong”.
Of course education, knowledge and talent are included in this concept. İntelligence of technology has already surpassed the biological consciousness.
After reaching this conclusion in 2007, I began to evaluate many events in my own life and also the things I read, not as “right or wrong” but based on my own data and skills. “Good or bad”, and “yin or yang” were one way of evaluating this. Humans always have the tendency to take the easy way out. Only when there is a clash which seems to be insurmountable does the possibility of transcendence emerge and only then can we instill this in our consciousness. With this definition, it becomes easier to comprehend and overcome contradictions.
Based on this definition, I perceive intuition, dreams and the subconscious as preconscious steps in the evolution which we try to interpret in the light of personal experience and education..
In this definition, the position of concepts like the id or superego are clear; superego refers to all that is obtained with education and dogma while ego continues to be used in the typical norm.
I believe that before consciousness and its applications are finalized and transformed into warning templates (“pre-existing molds”, Bahnung, facilitation), there is an automation in our nervous system (a transference with repetition from the cortical to the extrapyramidal system) also called “muscle memory”. Education is simply defined, a rehearsal to form “muscle memory.’
Later, through experience and even changes in our DNA (the mechanism of methylation), these can be construed as imbedded or non-embedded (active or passive genes) ways of reaction, behavior.
We are growing to understand that DNA is not a fixed and constant complement, but deviating and changeable “software”. With mosaic cells, we have learned that each human possesses different DNAs. We can observe the changes which occur within a 24-hour period in viruses and how these changes are naturally transferred to future generations in human beings and other mammals as well.
Even if we do not share some things, due to our “herd instinct”, like “a flock of birds circling in the sky”, we can suddenly “improvise” many an event. But only an ambitious and hard-working athlete, artist or scientist can actually consciously perform an act at will because he is aided by his instincts during this process. Our “herd instinct” and individual egos are not amicable and are often in conflict.
Although it is possible to be calm and humble in our attempts to consciously understand one another, we still cannot be exempt of our egos and this can result in a deviation (bias) and carrying our cultural burden which can then interfere with, and complicate communications on an individual basis and can result in people taking sides.
Even though our brains use only 20% of the oxygen we inhale, we are still proud, smug and arrogant creatures that are not as intelligent as we think we are. In the final analysis, our perceptions and decisions are based on the “self- the accepted one- good for me”, might not always be the best for “us”.
We learn through trial and error. It is possible that we consider the data or systems we once rejected or scoffed at earlier, to be a valuable cornerstone later.
The people who are champion money makers used to be in the agricultural and industrial sectors but now they are in the field of communication. I consider the communication sector to be the attempts of individuals to understand one another as portrayed by a multi- Gauss bell-shaped curve (based on IQ, EQ, culture, experience, age, and gender etc). In the absence of the ego, which occasionally seems possible when a person is lost in thought (when the ego exhibits the least deviation), issues, which are contentious, become less so. But individuals with outspoken egos are the most common laborers in the thinking world of our species. And without them, there is neither any amassing of knowledge nor the creation of any different viewpoints, which can cause anger.
In summary, as Anaxagoras is believed to have stated: “We are unable to comprehend the truth because our perceptions are limited.” However, we are gradually nearing the truth. We are a gullible species not as clever as we think we are.
I basically agree with the points made in Thomas Harris’ book “I am OK, you are OK”. Although it may be difficult, a slight change of “I may be OK, you probably are OK,” might bring us closer to a solution.
I believe that in time, we will realize more compromises and reconciliations with the help of mathematics. I define mathematics as being the language of the least (bias) prejudice. And I also feel that through the work of mathematicians and this definition of consciousness, beliefs like “the total is good for me or not good for me- (self / non-self) or those based on wrong data” will be replaced with more objective options which will be first offered to us so that we become enabled to reach an informed decision much faster.
Aren’t the Human Brain Project, Optogenetics, and the Human Connectom Project the first steps in this endeavor? Problems will be resolved not with technology and multi-million dollar projects, but with the brainpower and efforts of us -the laborers, the individuals with deviations.
Even though the title –The Definition of Consciousness- appears to be a lofty one, I am filled with excitement in this plea for help which I am happily making to you.
Ps. A good recent “academic” overview is given by Robert van Gulick @https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/. He also cites J.R Searle which many don’t. I feel also H v Ditfurth :Der Geist Fiel nicht vom Himmel (1976) is a must when writing about consciousness)
Another literature could be “Bias is Beautiful” by yours truly, available at Kindle, it mirrors the background of this essay. https://www.amazon.com/Bias-Beautiful-Mahmut-Tolon/dp/141966901X A year after that I used this definition of Consciousness in my book “Ortak Akıl için Kuğuşarkısı”. Pls see also “bilincin tanımı” on this blog. (-)
As for “artificial intelligence”, yes, it is superior to biologic intelligence (good morning!) and I believe artificial consciousness will become more and more of a reality as well.
M.Tolon MD, PhD