Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 3)

This founds a distinction only of terminology. Whereas the difference between proto-brain function and Consciousness is one of “orders of magnitude,” thus allowing us to posit a difference of kind, the difference between the instinct-only brain and Consciousness is not so easily discerned. We are at liberty to choose to use a terminology indicating a difference of degree (more or less conscious, higher-order or lower-order Consciousness, etc.) or of type (not-conscious or conscious), so long as we are consistent in our application.

This may seem highly counterintuitive. Surely, the difference between degree and type is an essential one, not a mere matter of semantics. More surely still, differences of degree are involved in the development of Consciousness. But it is important to remember that, for present purposes, we are not trying to give a complete account of Consciousness but to define it as a term. For the latter, we are better served by positing a clear distinction of type. The rest will follow in due time.

Transitionally, then, I adopt a terminology of types. The instinct-only brain will transitionally be referred to as “not-conscious” and only brains exhibiting more complex behaviors than instinct will be considered candidates for Consciousness.

If we consider instinct a series of (often quite complex) hardwired responses to (often quite complex) stimuli, all brains have instinct. By “hardwired” I refer to responses that can not be retrained. Instinct-only brains change their responses to stimuli only over generations by virtue of the selective pressures of evolution.

Insects, for example, by all validly controlled observation and experimental results, have, in the most evolved instances, instinct-only brains. Some birds and reptiles are seemingly able make minute adjustments. But, upon close observation, and careful discrimination, such apparent adjustments continue to be merely unchangeable hardwired instinctual actions. The myna bird and mockingbird, for example, add to their repertoire of sounds by way of a single unalterable hardwired behavior not as a change of behavior. Other apparent changes in individual bird and reptile behavior uniformly prove to be no more than unexpected expressions of rigorously fixed behaviors

What the myna bird and mockingbird also represent is the fact that instinct-only brains can exhibit short and long-term memory. They are not alone in this regard. The instinct-only brains of many creatures exhibit long and short-term memory. This to say that the presence of memory is not discriminative of Consciousness.

The workings of instinct-only brain reveal a great deal more to us about what the brain does that is not discriminative of Consciousness. Many instinct-only brains receive and process sensory input on quite a complex level for all of the senses that the conscious mind possesses. Instinct-only brains facilitate satisfaction of thirst and hunger, they enhance the success of mating, they evaluate risk, etc. None of these functions, this is to say, is discriminative of Consciousness while each is discriminative of the presence of a brain.

Returning for a moment to the Macleanian model of the human brain, the evolutionary remnants of the instinct-only brain are understood to resided in the r-complex otherwise known as the reptilian brain. The r-complex is understood to terminate at the limbic system which is the core of what is referred to as the paleo-mammalian brain. Among the many discoveries about the

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